Senior Airman Austin Frazier, a loadmaster with the 3rd Airlift Squadron, demonstrates the capabilities of a cargo control panel inside a C-17 Globemaster III June 22, 2012, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Loadmasters ensure that cargo is secure and properly packed before take-off and properly unloaded upon landing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Hubby)
Senior Airman Austin Frazier, a loadmaster with the 3rd Airlift Squadron, stores a chain used to secure cargo June 22, 2012, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Loadmasters care for both passenger and cargo on their aircraft, ensuring both make it safely to their destinations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Hubby)
Airman 1st Class Taylor Beams, a loadmaster with the 3rd Airlift Squadron, showcases the cargo area of a C-17 Globemaster III to a tour of Civil Air Patrol cadets June 22, 2012, at Dover Air Force Base, Del. Loadmasters oversee the safe and timely loading and unloading of cargo from their aircraft.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Matthew Hubby)
by Senior Airman Matthew Hubby
436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
6/26/2012 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- The 3rd Airlift Squadron operates the Dover Air Force Base Del., C-17 Globemaster III fleet, which travels all over the world delivering cargo to service members. This mission helps support the service members downrange as they undergo their duty in the area of responsibility. The loadmasters of the 3rd AS ensure that cargo gets loaded properly and safely transits to its destination.
Loadmasters undergo technical training that can take between eight months to a year. They begin their training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, before moving on to water survival, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training at Fairchild AFB, Wash., to ensure they can survive and avoid capture if their plane were to crash. They then move on to Altus Air Force Base, Okla., to receive the hands-on loading and unloading of the cargo portion of their training. Finally, they arrive at their duty station, and undergo up to four training flights before they are declared mission-ready.
"If you want to be a loadmaster, you need a good work ethic, a good head for math, solid people skills and common sense," said Senior Airman James Joyce, a loadmaster with the 3rd AS. "We can easily work 24-hour days, and we can be gone for weeks at a time, so being motivated is a must. It can be hot, hard, back-breaking work, but it's worth it."
Loadmasters ensure the cargo is properly secured and the passengers are safely strapped-in during takeoff and landing. They also answer any questions the passengers might have during the flights, as well as see to their overall comfort.
"We move everything from pallets of ammunition to tanks; space A passengers to Military Working Dog teams. If it needs to get somewhere, we make sure it gets there," said Airman 1st Class Taylor Beams, a loadmaster with the 3rd AS. "We can even transport helicopters if we need to. We go all over the world, from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to Tokyo, ensuring that our cargo is delivered to where it needs to go."
The most common mission loadmasters fly is from Dover AFB to Ramstein Air Base, Germany; then from Ramstein AB, to Afghanistan, and back to Ramstein AB before returning to Dover AFB, said Joyce. On average, the 3rd AS loadmasters fly 20 days out of the month, usually going on five-to-seven-day missions before returning home for a few days.
"I would say the hardest part of this job is the jet-lag," said Joyce. "It can take some time getting readjusted when you get back home. I usually can't sleep right the first few days I'm back. However, we get to travel all over the world and see places we wouldn't normally see. I'd have to say the most interesting place I've been was Tokyo. You walk off the base and suddenly you're surrounded by millions of people. It is completely different in the United States."
Even with all the traveling, the 3rd AS loadmasters stay current on their training. Every year, they perform a check-ride - a flight with an instructor to ensure they complete all necessary tasks - to maintain their mission-ready status.
"You have to be willing to learn on the go as a loadmaster," said Joyce. "To me, this is the best job in the Air Force, and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Sure, it can be tough sometimes, but at the end of the day, I know what I'm doing is helping deliver what our fellow service members need downrange."