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Airman Takes on Former AFSC to Unload Emergency Supplies

Religious Affairs Airman loads cargo.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sergeant Preston Harris, 47 Flying Training Wing chaplain assistant, guides a forklift carrying palletized water toward a tractor-trailer February 20, 2021 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. The city of Del Rio, Texas needed the emergency bottled water due to a boil water order caused by the impact of Winter Storm Uri. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Joseph Carpenter)

Religious Affairs Airman guides forklift

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sergeant Preston Harris, 47 Flying Training Wing Religious Affairs Airman, guides a forklift carrying palletized water toward a tractor-trailer February 20, 2021 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. The city of Del Rio, Texas needed the emergency bottled water due to a boil water order caused by the impact of Winter Storm Uri. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Joseph Carpenter)

LAUGHLIN AIR FORCE BASE, TX -- How does a Religious Affairs Airman end up assisting Laughlin’s Air Transportation Crew unload emergency supplies off a C-130? Not by mistake.

On Feb. 21, 2021, a C-130 Hercules from the 136th Airlift Wing Texas Air National Guard landed on Laughlin's flight line. The aircraft delivered emergency bottled water to Del Rio, Texas in response to a water shortage caused by Winter Storm Uri.

TSgt Harris, a Religious Affairs Airman, stepped in to assist our Choctaw contract partners

Here at the 47th Flying Training Wing, we have not forgotten one of the Air Force’s most important tenant's: “Flexibility is the Key to Air Power”. A phrase coined by Italian airpower strategist, Gen. Giulio Douhet, who wrote The Command of the Air in the 1920’s.

Tech. Sgt. Preston Harris, Religious Affairs Airman, 47th Flying Training Wing, lived out this phrase when he was called to help unload a Texas National Guard C-130 full of 38,000 pounds of bottled water. Laughlin is a training base, normally not equipped with “Port Dawg’s” a term used to describe the Air Transportation Crew that helps unload cargo planes like the C-130.

Except for Harris, who has been stationed at Laughlin as a Religious Affairs Airmen since January 2019. Harris retrained into the role after being an Air Transportation Crewmember for eight years.

“When I got the call to come out and help with this mission I was more than excited,” said Harris. “As a Religious Affairs Airman, we’re called to serve Airmen more than anyone thinks possible! That's our motto. Whether you’re active duty military, a family member, or our civilian brothers and sisters, we're here to serve.”

Harris, knowing that a large portion of the 35,000 people living in Del Rio were without clean drinking water, jumped at the opportunity to help the local community. By reliving his days working on flight lines in the past, he truly showed what it's like to be a cross-functional Airman.

When asked how he felt stepping back into the role, Harris says, “Last night's mission was an all-inclusive ramp services mission, one of the main services in my prior career field. Downloading that aircraft brought me back to my roots, and it was great to get my feet wet again.”

Harris compares his duty over the weekend to riding a bike, the skills to get the job done never really leaving him. He also mentions the camaraderie of his old career field, and feeling that sense of that camaraderie all over again while he was guiding the cargo on the flight line.

Col. Craig Prather, 47th Flying Training Wing commander weighed in, “Who would have expected a religious affairs Airman to be out there?” He says. “Preston highlights what we saw the entire week. Everyone pitching in and doing whatever they could to support the whole team.”

The mission of the 47th Flying Training Wing is to build combat-ready Airmen, Leaders, and Pilots. Airmen like Tech. Sgt. Preston Harris.

“I’m just there to get the mission done. Safe, on time, and by the book!” said Harris.