3rd Aerial Port Squadron celebrates 60th anniversary

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Harry Kehs
  • 3rd Aerial Port Squadron
More than 150 Airmen and family members from the 3rd Aerial Port Squadron gathered for a picnic here to celebrate the squadron's 60th Anniversary March 16, 2013.
 
As they look to the future, the "All-American Port" continues to move forward in spite of recent budget challenges and the changing operational environment.

"Our outlook is positive and optimistic," said Maj. Joseph Whittington, 3rd APS commander. "We will continue to draw strength and pride from our historic heritage as we build for the future. However, navigating through new challenges will provide our squadron the opportunity to invest in innovation both through technology, and more importantly, our Airmen. Our 60th anniversary illustrates the integration of past and present, and we are looking forward to expanding upon the strong foundation constructed by former 3rd APS Airmen."

Operating from the Green Ramp on Pope Army Airfield, the Port Dawgs have participated in many wartime campaigns; most recently Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn. The squadron serves as the primary supporter of the XVIII Airborne Corps, as well as the 82d Airborne Division and their Global Response Force mission. Port Airmen have also been a constant force multiplier in Afghanistan and Iraq. The aerial porters bring both superior job knowledge, skill and leadership to the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility.

Not only does 3rd APS support the GRF and war effort, but they also facilitate airlift support for humanitarian relief operations. On Aug. 29, 2005, the squadron directed the four-day outload of 1,883 passengers and 1,190 tons of cargo, delivering assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. On Jan. 12, 2010, Port Dawgs promptly responded to the devastating earthquake in Haiti by transporting 1,300 tons of aid into the country. The squadron also provided emergency relief after Superstorm Sandy ravaged the Northeast region of the United States Oct. 29, 2012.

Nothing symbolizes the squadron's rich history more than its mascot, Jiminy Cricket. Rights for use were purchased from Walt Disney in 1959 for $1.00 after Airman 2nd Class Robert Dunlap won a squadron patch design contest. Jiminy Cricket and the historic patch embody the timeless legacy of the unit. The umbrella serves as Jiminy's parachute symbolizing the combat control section that used to be a part of the port. In his right hand, Jiminy is holding a load adjuster that represents the former inclusion of the loadmaster in aerial port operations.

The squadron was activated March 16, 1953, at Donaldson Air Force Base, S.C. The unit moved several times after its activation, relocating to Altus AFB, Okla., and then to Lawson AFB, Ga., before settling in to its permanent home at Pope AFB, N.C. in August of 1954. Squadron history includes a wide variety of missions, from standard paratrooper training to "big screen" logistics; most notably the movement of Keiko, the Whale from the movie, Free Willy. With 60 years of service to the United States, the "All-American Port," as designated by the 82d Airborne Division in 1999, is the oldest active duty aerial port unit in the U.S. Air Force.

The squadron's motto, "Ad Astra Per Ardua--to the stars through difficulty," remains the calling card as the 3rd APS continues to build for the future.