TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Nestled in the rolling green hills of Northern California is Travis Air Force Base, located about halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. While golden sun rays dance across the flightline, warming Air Force cargo planes, men and women from all services work tirelessly around the installation.
On the south side of the base, a small group of Sailors and one Marine work with the 60th Aerial Port Squadron, sending naval assets by air assembled at Travis to the 7th Fleet.
Petty Officer 1st Class Geronimo Delarosa, the West Coast expeditor for the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), an aircraft carrier, handles all materials coming through Travis destined for the ship named after America’s 40th president.
Delarosa, a native of Manila, Republic of the Philippines, starts his workday at 7:30 a.m. His first duty is to check "the bays," designated areas in the warehouse where materials are set upon arrival or when ready for transport. In outbound bays, blue signs hang overhead with three-letter designators representing the materials final destination. OSN for Osan Air base, South Korea, UAM for Andersen Air Force Base, Guam and OKO for Yokota Air Base, Japan – the primary point of entry for USS Ronald Reagan supplies.
Trucks come and go throughout the day, said Delarosa. Prior to loading those trucks with packages bound for the Pacific, Delarosa conducts a careful inspection, ensuring each package is labeled and prepared for shipment properly.
"I have to physically wrap them, put metal bands (on them) and tie (them) to a pallet,” said Delarosa. He also checks to see if “special handling” cargo requires his attention such as confidential, secret or hazardous materials.
"I really have to know, from the beginning, how material gets to me, how (each) package is being handled – all that – to avoid delays," said Delarosa.
On average, Delarosa processes 20 to 30 packages a day, a rate that can double when the Ronald Reagan is conducting operations.
Delarosa's job is vital to the USS Ronald Reagan and the 60th APS, said retired Chief Master Sgt. John Buchanan, 60th APS operations officer.
"That individual, through the port here, will (ensure we) keep ahead of the fleet and the battle group,” said Buchanan. “His role is to ensure the USS Ronald Reagan is supplied with critical parts (and supplies) on time.”
While the Ronald Reagan is at sea, Delarosa tracks the ships’ location, as well its destination. Ensuring material is sent to the ships’ next location is vital.
"We want and need to beat the ship, so the ship and Travis have the capability, 24/7 to project American power," said Buchanan. "That's what we train our Airmen to do here. They understand that our Navy is a vital component out in the Pacific and critical to our operations.”
Delarosa has supported ships at sea several times during his career having served on the Oliver Hazzard Perry class guided missile frigate, the USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) and the guided-missile destroyer, the USS Mustin (DDG 89), both in Japan. He also served on the submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40), when it was deployed out of Guam.
"It's good to have a little knowledge of everything, because I've been in supply for a while now,” Delarosa said.
The default transportation for material shipments in the military is by surface, with materials bound for the Pacific being handled through the Defense Distribution Depot in Tracy, California.
"Most of the time, when (Navy ships) want shipments, they want it by air. But once it gets to Tracy, that's it. It's going by surface," said Delarosa. "That's the expediting part of this. Getting the material through Travis."
The 60th APS supports up to 270 sea and shore commands in the Pacific. According to Buchanan, between 80 and 85 percent of all material moving through Travis belongs to the Navy.
"If I did not have Sailors for the Ronald Reagan here, the ship would be in trouble,” said Buchanan. “If we had a [casualty report], or an item, that grounds the aircraft carrier itself – whether that’s an issue with the propellant system, the water system, the fueling system or the propulsion system – that part or that piece could come through Travis. Well, I don't know where the ship is exactly, so whatever is in the database, I would send it there. Delarosa provides me with the ability to beat the ship. So when the ship goes into port, the plan is – with his help and direction – to get critical parts sent to the ship, ready to go.”