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Pipeline to flight line

Boom operators and loadmasters of the 97th Training Squadron attend their weekly role call for any need to know information, July 3, 2018 at Altus Air Force Base, Okla.

Boom operators and loadmasters of the 97th Training Squadron attend their weekly role call for any need to know information, July 3, 2018 at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. On base roughly 150 students are brand new to the Air Force and are undergoing technical training here annually.

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- On average, 2,200 students are trained annually at Altus AFB to expand the Air Force’s and foreign allies’ capability for global mobility reach. Those students include pilots, loadmasters and boom operators going through initial, retraining and requalification training. Of those trained, about 150 are pipeline students becoming loadmasters and boom operators for the Air Force. These students are brand new to the Air Force and haven’t even made it to their duty station yet.

The jobs of loadmasters and boom operators are similar in that they are in command of the back portion of the aircraft, ensuring the pilots can fly the aircraft while they handle the rest of the aircraft’s capabilities.

“These Airmen have gone through basic training then initial flying fundamentals at Lackland AFB,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Kylee Braham, a military training leader assigned to the 97th Training Squadron. “From there they either go through Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training or here for qualification training, either way they have to do both.”

After going through these initial qualifications, they receive their first hands-on training with the actual aircraft here for three to four months.

“Altus is where all the studying is really tested,” said Braham. “Each location in their training is something different that the other locations can’t teach. At this base they will be tested on how to do their day-to-day job in the operational field. It’s up to Altus to make sure that these Airmen understand and are able to perform their job when they leave.”

At any given time, there are usually 45-60 pipeline Airmen training here. They come from all around the country and every boom operator of the KC-135 Stratotanker and loadmaster of the C-17 Globemaster III receive their training here.

“Once I actually performed training first hand, everything up to this was worth it,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Connor Collins, a loadmaster in training assigned to the 97th TRS. “My instructors throughout my training have been great and there is rarely other jobs like these with the enlisted and officer relationship that we have. The base has been great and they try to do what they can for us while we are here.”

The pipeline students leaving here will extend global mobility reach around the world because of the lessons they learned at Altus AFB and the reason why the base constantly trains new Airmen for the future of the Air Force.