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Altus AFB supplies USAF with mission ready loadmasters

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- On March 23, 1996, the 97th Air Mobility Wing received its first U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft, and by the end of the year, the wing had four. Altus AFB is the only base in the U.S. Air Force that uses the C-17 aircraft to conduct initial loadmaster qualification training, airdrop qualification training and instructor loadmaster training.

"Loadmasters help the Air Force deliver airpower to austere airfields and warriors in direct combat conditions beyond the wire by the use of airdrop," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shane Powell, 58th Airlift Squadron C-17A flight examiner loadmaster.

Over the past year, around 300 Airmen and international students attended the initial loadmaster qualification training course. It can take up to eight months to become a loadmaster.

"Loadmasters are subject matter experts that are responsible for ensuring an aircraft is safe to fly by load planning, calculating weight and balance, completing pre-flight checks and safely supervising aircraft loading," said Powell. "They must complete in-flight procedures, be knowledgeable of numerous emergency procedures, take care of passengers in both normal and emergency conditions and airdrop supplies around the world."

The training is comprised of several schools such as aircrew fundamentals, basic loadmaster course, water survival training and Survival Evasion Resistance Escape training. Here at Altus AFB, only aircraft specific training is conducted.

"It's very hands on and I like that because I'm a hands-on learner," said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Larissa Bunting, 97th Training Squadron loadmaster student. "It's not just sitting in class looking at PowerPoints all the time. We actually get to go out and we have trainers where we can practice loading cargo. It's pretty fun."

The students will begin their training by completing various computer based training courses.

"The CBT's at the beginning of the course are probably the most challenging because it's a lot of information coming to you at one time, so it's pretty difficult to remember everything," said Bunting. "I study every night, I'll study with friends so they learn some new information if they haven't gotten that far in class yet. I study because I know in a few weeks I'll become a qualified loadmaster and I've been in training for almost a year."

The students are trained by loadmaster instructors from 58th Airlift Squadron and the 730th Air Mobility Training Squadron.

"The instructors are very informational and, if you have any questions at all, they're always at the squadron to answer them," said Bunting. "They're really helpful."

"As a Formal Training Unit instructor I have the opportunity to enforce the training I feel is most important to loadmasters. We cover everything we need to on each flight and review other material if the student wants to, however, I can really stress the importance of emergency equipment," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jayne Alexander, 730th AMTS loadmaster instructor. "It's incredibly important to make sure that the students know the weapon systems and how they are required to operate them because they're going to be taking over one day. We're impacting the mission by supplying the Air Force with knowledgeable and capable men and women with a desire to help and learn."

Bunting offered a few words of advice, "Study every day because if you don't then you're not going to retain the information and you're just going to go downhill from there."