More than a dozen C-130 and C-17 aircraft from two continents and six states are providing tactical airlift from the power projection platform at Ramstein Air Base for Exercise Steadfast Javelin II.
The NATO-led exercise, which ended Thursday, included active-duty and Air National Guard Airmen collaborating with paratroopers from the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne) and multinational forces to prepare U.S., NATO Allies and European security partners to conduct unified land operations.
Combat airlift played a pivotal role in the exercise’s overall mission success, however the flying mission began well before takeoff.
“Our timeline begins regularly five hours or more before we take to the air,” said Tech. Sgt. Mathew Merkley, 37th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. “Before an aircraft can take to the skies, loadmasters and crew chiefs examine the aircraft from tail to nose.”
Operation specifics vary widely from mission to mission, but the responsibility of the aircraft lies with the aircrew operating it.
“I’m responsible for this (C-130J) Super Hercules,” said Senior Airman Christian McDevitt, 37th AS loadmaster. “Pilots, passengers and cargo rely on me to ensure the safe and proper packaging and distribution of whatever we might be carrying. It is up to me and my fellow loadmasters to safely deliver our manifest.”
Airmen remaining properly positioned are also a factor when handling real-world and exercise situations.
“We at the 37th AS stand on alert constantly and are ready for whatever life may throw our way,” said Capt. Clayton Martin, 37th AS pilot. “Operationally speaking, we are called upon to supply safe, accurate, fast and successful airlift power within our area of operation and we make it our duty to do so.”
By maintaining an always ready posture, the 37th AS prepared itself to fluidly and effectively work with the 1st Bn., 503rd Inf. Regt. while refreshing its interoperability with multinational forces.
“The constant training and interactions with the people we support allows us to understand the needs and necessities of the Army, or any partners to successfully complete their objectives,” Martin said.
As the propellers stopped spinning, the loadmasters completed final checks and the pilots stretched their legs after a long flight. Once again the loadmasters and pilots of the 37th AS completed another mission successfully.
“Tonight we were able to drop 4,000 pounds of cargo along with 36 paratroopers quickly, accurately and, most importantly, safely,” said Airman 1st Class Emily Mitchell, 37th AS loadmaster. “It’s a thrilling experience to know I’m bringing these Soldiers and their fight to the drop zone.”
Whether it is cargo, passengers, humanitarian aid or paratroopers, the 37th AS and its aircrew are ready to deliver on time and target wherever they are tasked to fly.