Sunday, September 16, 2012
Couriers' Missions Deliver Defense
by Tech. Sgt. Kevin Wallace
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
6/25/2007 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (AFPN) -- A two-person team secures a pallet of classified test equipment aboard a small military aircraft at Defense Courier Station Honolulu. Meanwhile, another two-person team leaves DCS San Diego via surface transportation, escorting classified material to a local customer.
As these deliveries are being made, a Soldier books a commercial flight out of Baltimore, executing urgent delivery of a classified document to a government agency. This is just one day in the world of U.S. Transportation Command's Defense Courier Division.
Soon Dover Air Force Base will have a part in this unique division. A new sub-station for USTRANSCOM's Courier service at the Air Freight Terminal, Outsized Cargo Facility, is currently under construction here.
Qualified Airmen, Soldiers or Sailors can apply for Defense Courier special duty.
"This is the best job I can ever imagine doing as an Airman," said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Vincent, a DCS San Diego courier. "Being a San Diego-based courier offered me a new and exciting job. Normal missions are planned in advance and the schedule is such that I can balance work with my professional and military development."
A fellow Soldier courier agrees. "For me, the most positive side to being a courier is the experience outside my MOS (Military Occupational Specialty)," said Army Sgt. Trend Fate, a courier from DCS Louisville, Ky. "I get to work in a different capacity for the military. It is also a great opportunity to learn a little bit about the other military branches."
Couriers are trusted messengers, assigned to secure and deliver America's most highly classified and sensitive information.
Every day, couriers travel aboard civilian aircraft, drive long road missions and fly global air missions into combat zones in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom, said Lt. Col. Leslie Burns, Defense Courier division chief.
These missions demand service before self, she said. The overlying importance of the job they do requires dedication and commitment since the classified cargo is critical to the warfighters, allies and government agencies relying on couriers for secure and efficient service.
"The cargo can range from a small package or briefcase to several pallets," Sergeant Vincent said. "We never know what's actually in the containers...it's safer that way."
The modes of transport vary depending on the mission at hand.
"We have land missions and flying missions aboard military aircraft," said Sergeant Vincent. "Occasionally, when the regular routes are not quick enough, we don civilian clothes and catch a commercial flight."
Sergeant Fate has a similar mission at her location.
"Here in Louisville, we have both air and surface missions," Sergeant Fate said.
"We have small plane missions that allow us to service 14 locations in 10 states. In a single mission, we deliver in up to four states in one day," she said.
The courier stations are located at 18 primary worldwide locations and routinely support current global contingencies with the ability to deploy when required, Colonel Burns said.
The opportunity to test the courier capability for real-world contingencies surfaced during the Gulf War. Eight days after Iraqi tanks entered Kuwait, a seven-person defense courier station was deployed to Headquarters, U.S. Central Command in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. By the end of operations Desert Shield and Storm, couriers delivered more than one-million pounds of classified and sensitive material.
Stereotypically, a courier is a man in a black suit with a briefcase strapped to his arm flying around the world, gunning down anyone who gets too close to him or the package he is carrying. The actual world of a courier is less dramatic and does not require super-spies, with '007' status, to do the job. Many servicemembers have the qualifications to become a defense courier.
For example, Sergeant Vincent left his position as a vehicle operations NCO and sought out the courier special duty to expand his breadth of experience and for change.
"I heard about the courier duty," he said. "I researched it on the Air Force Assignment Management System and Defense Courier Division Web site. At the time, there was a one-year remote courier tour to Bahrain listed. I applied and was accepted with a follow-on assignment to San Diego, and then off for training and for Bahrain I went."
Though there are assignments at locations across the world and the Air Force, Army and Navy all provide servicemembers for the duties, Sergeant Vincent's two assignments so far have both been to Navy locations.
"I like working in the joint-service environment," he said. "I speak fluent Navy lingo now. It's actually awkward trying to speak 'Air Force.'"
Sergeant Fate enjoys being a defense courier, but also feels the joint-service environment has some drawbacks too. It's hard to maintain her original MOS knowledge while performing this duty and the Army needs its Soldiers to have recency in operational tours for their own professional development as a Soldier. But she feels the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and believes the experiences she is getting cannot be found easily in the Army.
"In addition to traveling, it is exciting to meet people from different backgrounds," she said. "Our customers are throughout the Defense Department. In addition to the Army, Navy and Air Force, we serve the Marines and a number of other government agencies. We also get unique opportunities to serve those who are forward deployed."
The defense courier career is always looking to expand. There are qualifications, however, that Airmen must meet to become a courier. He or she must be in the grade of E-5 or above. and received a rating of 5 in section IV of their last 5 Enlisted Performance Reports. Couriers must be able to obtain a final Top Secret clearance.
For a complete list of requirements and more information on DCS special duties, refer to their Web site at http://dcd.transcom.mil.