Life as a loadmaster

By Airman Leah Young/62nd Airlift Wing on February 11, 2011

While frequent missions and a high operations tempo can make life stressful, Tech. Sgt. Ron Strayhorne, says that he wouldn't trade his seven years as a loadmaster for anything in the world.

At the 62nd Airlift Wing, loadmasters are assigned to one of four flying squadrons, and constantly operate overseas contingency operations. 

"There is no other job in the world that would allow me to see and experience these types of things," said Sergeant Strayhorne, 10th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. 

The 62nd AW's mission, delivering global airlift for America, requires loadmasters assigned to the 10th AS to fly missions an average of ten days per month. 

"Most people don't realize how often we're gone," said Sergeant Strayhorne, a native of Phoenix, Ariz. "Those ten days a month don't include our normal four-month deployment rotation with the other flying squadrons."

The term 'mission' can mean several different things to an aircrew of two loadmasters and three pilots. 

"We deliver anything from helicopters and tanks to food and medical supplies," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "We are constantly providing personnel and equipment in support of the war effort. Our job is to make sure the cargo gets where it needs to go."

According to Sergeant Strayhorne, a typical mission departs McChord Field and picks up cargo at a location on the East coast. The crew usually then enters a stage, which requires them to operate out of a base closer to the area of responsibility.

"Some of the common places we stage out of are located in Southwest Asia," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "Staging just allows us to be closer to the fight and readily available when they need us."

Loadmasters can stage out of a variety of locations, and often get the opportunity to see the world while delivering global airlift.

"I've literally been all around the world," said Sergeant Strayhorne, who loves outdoor sports. "Antarctica is the only continent I haven't set foot on yet. Some of my favorite places are Argentina, Moscow and Spain."

Sergeant Strayhorne enjoys being heavily involved in the delivery of global airlift, and says it was one of the major reasons he chose to cross train into the career field.

"I used to be a hydraulics mechanic," said the technical sergeant. "When I worked as a helicopter maintainer, we flew with our crew and experienced some exciting things. I didn't want to go back to the normal mechanic culture. I wanted to be completely involved in the process of delivering cargo, so I chose to cross train into a career field that allows me to do that."

According to his official Air Force job description for the 1A2X1 career field, loadmasters like Sergeant Strayhorne accomplish loading and off-loading aircraft functions and perform pre-flight and post-flight of aircraft and aircraft systems. 

"Before the cargo is loaded onto the aircraft, we perform visual inspections and operational checks on the loading systems," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "We check the aircraft status to ensure any repairs entered are completed and the plane is ready to go. We also review the load manifest before we load the cargo, which tells us what cargo needs to be delivered to what location."

They also perform loadmaster aircrew functions, compute weight and balance and other mission specific qualification duties, and provide for safety and comfort of passengers and troops, and security of cargo, mail and baggage during flight. 

"After the cargo is loaded, we make sure it's under a certain weight so that the plane can fly as it's supposed to," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "That's the most important aspect of our job. Along with that, we also brief the passengers on the safety items aboard the aircraft and emergency evacuation instructions."

Sergeant Strayhorne enjoys the amount of responsibility and the satisfaction of delivering supplies all over the world. 

"I love the fact that my job helps people everywhere," said the loadmaster. 

On the weekend, he enjoys snowboarding and spending time outside. The 16-year Airman says he loves living in the Northwest and looks forward to retiring at McChord Field.

"I love the area," said Sergeant Strayhorne. "It's a nice place to come back to after a long mission."