Local airman in world news: Shipping it back home

Vancouver airman helps with process of pulling up stakes in Afghanistan

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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A Vancouver airman is part of the push to wind down the United States' military presence in Afghanistan while continuing to support combat operations.

Air Force Senior Airman Wyatt Belinskey is an aerial porter with the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron, stationed at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

Belinskey, a 2009 graduate of Prairie High School, was featured in a recent Defense Department photograph showing military equipment being sent back to the U.S. He is the son of Wade and Demy Belinskey.

The airfield in Parwan province serves as a major hub for what the military calls "retrograde operations" from Afghanistan as the United States draws down its forces.

This year, an Air Force news release described the 455th Expeditionary Aerial Port Squadron freight yard as the Department of Defense's busiest flight line.

For her son, that means putting in a 72-hour work week, Demy Belinskey said.

"He works from noon to midnight, six days a week," she said.

Belinskey was stationed in Germany for two years before being deployed to Afghanistan in May. The deployment is scheduled to end in early November. His enlistment won't be up, but she's hoping he will be home for Christmas, Demy Belinskey said.

Airmen with the squadron's special handling section processed more than 2,000 tons of retrograde equipment during September, according to an Air Force spokesman.

The U.S. once had more than 100 bases in Afghanistan, and many of them, and their equipment, are being turned over to Afghan forces. But as a recent Armed Forces News Service story reported, the U.S. is not leaving equipment that the Afghans are unable to maintain.

One item of homeward-bound military equipment was almost a century old, by the way. In a military news release, Master Sgt. Bryan Creamer, the non-commissioned officer in charge of ramp service, described the most unusual item that has come through the freight yard.

A Polish officer whose unit was part of the coalition forces asked Creamer if his "port dawgs" could help ship a World War I Polish tank.

The historical piece of armor "had been returned to them by the Afghan government," Creamer told Staff Sgt. David Dobrydney, with the wing's public affairs office. The tank could have fit in the bed of a large pickup truck, he said.

"It was hard to believe it was something someone would go to battle in," Creamer said.