Defense couriers continually deliver for 'no-fail' mission

  • Published
  • By Josh Plueger
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
The warm colors of sunrise mock the transient crew members waiting on the eastern side of a hangar, the temperature stuck in the single digits.  The silence that accompanies such a deep freeze gives way to a faint chirp of rubber meeting cement as a C-12 aircraft arrives at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.  Transient crew members assume their positions to marshal in the unassuming plane.  The two U.S. Army pilots kill the engines of the small aircraft, returning the muted sounds that the propellers briefly interrupted.

Moments later, a large a box truck appears.  Two Airmen inside exit the truck and unlock the rear sliding door revealing dozens of cardboard boxes.  With an urgent pace denoting a finite amount of time, they systematically begin moving parcels from the truck to the waiting aircraft.  Minutes later, the cramped fuselage of the C-12 is filled with the contents of the truck along with the two Airmen.  The engines once again come to life with a joint crew of Soldiers and Airmen taking to the sky to locations unknown to everyone left on the frozen ramp.

The inconspicuous transaction is known to only a select few.  The boundaries of Offutt not only boast the 55th Wing, but also more than 50 partner units, such as U.S. Strategic Command and the Air Force Weather Agency, just to name a few.  There exists one partner, residing in an unassuming 3,400 square foot building, housing six Airmen, tasked with a critical and demanding mission.  These Airmen are part of the Defense Courier Division within the United States Transportation Command.

The small defense courier station works much like any post office or commercial mailing model.  Parcels are obtained, categorized and shipped to their customers.  However, that is where the similarities begin and end.  Defense couriers exclusively handle secret material from government agencies, military units, government contractors and allied partners. The nature of these packages requires systematic redundancies to ensure zero errors in receiving, storing and delivering the material.  These six Airmen are tasked with nine states and 130 customers, comprising the second largest geographical area of responsibility for all of the 17 worldwide defense courier units. The scope of the mission is a daunting task.

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Jason Klug, station chief, Defense Courier Station Offutt, provides further perspective adding, "Our station averages just over a 100 missions and 95,000 miles per year via airlift and road system."

Courier stations are typically a joint undertaking comprised of Airmen, Sailors and Soldiers.  The current team at Offutt's is comprised of all Airmen, which is unique.  The three-year controlled Defense Courier Division tour doesn't discriminate based on one's professional background.

"Once assigned, couriers receive specialized on-the-job training within the courier division," Klug said. "Cargo and logistics experience will reduce the learning curve and make the transition easier, but no prerequisites currently exist."

But Klug did add, "Top secret eligibility is required."

Each of the geographic areas around the globe, serviced by a network of 17 courier stations, comes with a unique set of challenges.  The couriers at Offutt are not exempt from these trials.  Driving along linear, seemingly infinite, stretches of pavement flanked by some of the most sparsely populated regions of the United States, can be a challenge alone.  Couple distance with fierce Midwestern blizzards, including numerous other weather hazards, and one can quickly appreciate the demanding conditions that the couriers encounter.  Always traveling in pairs, the couriers never fail to reach their remote customers.

In spite of the demands of the mission Klug reflects, "I have really enjoyed traveling the Midwest, meeting and interacting with our customers, exploring a different side of logistics, and tackling fresh and new daily challenges. Most importantly, I have enjoyed the intangible benefits of serving alongside a high-speed, joint team that is steeped in history."

U.S. Air Force Col. Scott Gaab, the recently assigned Defense Courier Division chief, commented on what it is like leading a unit of professionals after visiting numerous courier operating locations around the world.

"It's humbling to lead the incredible professionals that are out there doing this no-fail mission every day," he said. "It's amazing to watch these experienced Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen doing a critical job outside of their primary career field."

"These men and women perform a mission that is vital to the Department of Defense and national security.  It is a pleasure and honor to serve with such high caliber professionals," he added.

In contrast to our expansive digital environment, there will always be a need to move physical material, in a secure manner, for both federal and state customers.

Thankfully, we have Soldiers, Airmen and Sailors around the globe ensuring the safe, efficient and timely delivery of this no-fail mission that is accomplished on a daily basis. And whether hitting the pavement or leaving it, the Airmen of the Defense Courier Station Offutt are a key part of this decades long mission.