Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bobby J Siens // Staff Writer
An aircraft carrier is essentially a floating city, with nearly 5,000 Sailors living, sleeping and eating aboard. Just like any other city, there are needs for an airport terminal, post office, and delivery logistics services.
The Air Terminal Office aboard aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) is responsible for handling the loading and unloading of mail, personnel, repair parts and supplies from Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft and helicopters.
Logistics Specialist 1st Class Christopher Cole, Truman’s air transfer assistant, said the Air Terminal Office, or the “ATO shack,” plays a larger role in supporting the ship’s mission than some may think.
“The ATO shack coordinates the mail, cargo and personnel coming on and off the ship on a daily basis,” said Cole.
The ATO shack completes its mission with the use of two C-2A Greyhounds, assigned to the “Rawhides” of Fleet Logistic Support Squadron (VRC) 40, MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters, assigned to the “Proud Warriors” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 72, and MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters, assigned to the “Nightdippers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5.
“With one COD we can handle 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of cargo,” said Cole. “With both CODs we can handle up to 6,000 pounds. That’s a lot of mail, parts, or personnel.”
In the event the ship needs a part quickly, or an aircraft or piece of machinery becomes inoperable, the Air Terminal Office takes the lead on getting that part onboard as fast as possible.
“Whether it’s a small part or a big part that is needed, we are the quickest way to get it onboard,” said Lt. Andy Hankins, Truman’s air transfer officer. “We coordinate losely with Supply department and with personnel ashore to make sure we can quickly facilitate getting the ship anything it needs.”
Another area where the ATO shack supports the ship’s mission is by assisting with Truman’s distinguished visitor program. They coordinate flights and assist with the DVs once they land.
“We treat our DVs like the first-class guests that they are,” said Hankins. “We also help them safely navigate the flight deck and ensure that they get to where they need to be aboard the ship.”
The ATO shack is also responsible for maintaining the manifests for all incoming and outgoing personnel on the ship. They handle the air transfer requests and paperwork required to get people on or off the ship.
“I enjoy my job because I get to welcome everyone as they come aboard, and say farewell to everyone as they leave,” said Hankins. “From the seaman who is just checking in, to the executive officer as he departs for his next command.”
The morale boost of bringing mail onboard, the impact of professional service for distinguished visitors, or making aircraft and machinery operational again by ensuring repair parts are delivered quickly, the ATO shack plays an important role in accomplishing the ship’s mission and maintaining operational readiness.