97th TRS provides USAF with mission ready aircrew Published May 23, 2013 By Airman 1st Class Franklin R. Ramos 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- If you want to fly, fight and win in a C-17 Globemaster III or KC-135 Stratotanker, you have to come to Altus AFB first. Because that's the only place in the world where more than 600 boom operators and loadmasters every year learn the refueling and cargo loading mission for the U.S. Air Force. The 97th manages the 97th Air Mobility Wing's $1.01 billion contracted aircrew training program for 275 assigned instructors and 2,100 students from the United States and 16 other countries. Of those 2,100 students around 603 are boom operators and loadmasters in training here. "Technical school is around six months long," said Airman 1st Class Justin Elliot, 97th TRS boom operator student. "It's a lot to learn at once. They just throw it all at you and it's all important because you can't mess up. You really need to know it." A boom operator's primary mission is to refuel aircraft in flight expanding the Air Force's global reach. They also load cargo and sometimes assist with aero medical evacuation missions as well. "Once you get here, be prepared to learn and study. The instructors will help you out the best they can to teach you what you need to know," said Staff Sgt. Lucas Treat, 97th TRS boom operator instructor. "Our mission here as boom operator instructors is to teach the students how to make contacts, pay attention to the aircraft, backup the pilots, keep passengers safe and do the job right so when we start putting loved ones in the air they're not going to do anything that will cause them harm." Loadmasters are the experts who help facilitate the loading and offloading of cargo and passengers on the C-17. "Coming to Altus and being on the plane is where you will learn the most," said Airman 1st Class Matthew McKinney, 97th TRS loadmaster student. "I am a hands-on learner. Once I can visualize what I'm doing, that's the point where I fully realize how important the job will be." "The most important part of training is learning the safety aspect of keeping the cargo restrained and all the other flying safety aspects," McKinney said. "The instructor loadmaster mission here is to take a regular basic trainee or a cross trainee and mold them into a loadmaster that we can send out of here ready to fight the fight," said Master Sgt Donny Washam, 97th TRS loadmaster superintendent. "We try to pass on the exact knowledge of what they're going to see out there in the mobility world." The 97th TRS supplies the Air Force with Airmen ready to accomplish the cargo loading and refueling mission. "I impact the mission of the operational Air Force by providing it with new thoroughly trained boom operators who are ready to go up there and take the spot of the boom operators that are leaving the Air Force," Lucas said. "I supply a constant fresh source of boom operators to fulfill the mission of whatever command they are going to." Washam left a tip for future 97th TRS students. "Be very motivated whether you are a loadmaster, boom operator or any type of aviator. We have a lot of pride in what we do as instructors and you have a lot of responsibilities as an Airman. Come ready to learn because it's going to come at you fast and we are going to cram it in there and are going to expect the most out of you and the highest product that we can send to the Air Force."