Warfield Air National Guard Base --
Members from the Maryland Air National Guard both active and retired, gathered to witness the deactivation of the Small Air Terminal, February 12, 2022 at Warfield Air National Guard Base.
Although technically a separate unit, the Small Air Terminal traces its spiritual roots to the 135th Aerial Port Flight and, before that, to the 135th Airborne Material Assembly Squadron, which was stationed in Harbor Field, Baltimore.
The 135th APF was part of the Maryland Air National Guard from 1976, when it was activated at Martin State Airport, to 2008. The Airborne Material Assembly Squadron was part of the Maryland Guard from 1955 to 1958.
For aerial porters – or “Port Dawgs,” as they are affectionately referred to – the mission was multifaceted. Ramp services, cargo processing, passenger service, air terminal operations center, special handling, and fleet services are all disciplines within the aerial port that the Port Dawgs trained for regularly.
“When I was flying, the two things I couldn't control were maintenance and the work of the aerial port,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Amy Kremser, the current 175th Mission Support Group commander and a former C-130 pilot. “Because of the professionalism and pride within the [aerial port] flight, I never questioned safety. And that made me and my passengers safe while flying.”
Due to a decrease in personnel, the 135th APF transitioned to the Small Air Terminal, under the 175th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Although their numbers decreased, their mission did not change. Even as the 175th Wing no longer had active air transportation missions from 135th Airlift Squadron, these skills were still put to work as the Port Dawgs supported and processed dozens of cargo and personnel deployment functions throughout the years.
“If not for these Airmen, the wing would have had to request assistance from another unit to accomplish these missions or spend additional unit funds to ship the cargo over land,” said U.S Air Force Capt. Jamie Plakosh, flight commander of the 175th’s air transport function. “These Airmen often accompanied these missions, so they could process return cargo and passengers resulting in time and funding savings.”
The Small Air Terminal is not deactivating without leaving behind a legacy. Supporting missions such as Desert Storm in the 1990s to the 59th Presidential Inauguration last year, the Port Dawgs knew how to get the mission done.
“That's the cool thing about being an aerial porter,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Steven Mooney, who served as the superintendent of the 175th Small Air Terminal. “When other sections around the base go on their TDYs for training, they’re practicing what they would do for their wartime mission. We would be doing real-world missions for our two weeks. We would be supporting things that were happening all around the world.”
Although the Port Dawg mission may be gone, their impact on the Maryland Air National Guard will live on.
“We’ve been around the world, to all these different countries. For most of us, it was the time of our life and we didn't even realize it,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. James Shepard, an air transportation specialist. “If I had to quantify the legacy, it would be in the friendships and relationships that we developed. It was in the people that we were with, as opposed to where we were.”