Ramstein loadmasters raise the bar

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dominique Benward, 37th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, briefs 37th AS personnel prior to a training mission flight during 2021 Aviation Detachment Rotation near Powidz, Poland, Oct. 28.

Throughout 2021 Aviation Detachment Rotation, several 37th Airlift Squadron loadmasters took on a notable increase in responsibility during day-to-day operations at the 33rd Air Base near Powidz, Poland, Oct. 30.

By no accident, these select loadmasters became even more capable in their ability to lead and teach a cohesive aircrew since graduating from the 29th Weapon Squadron Advanced Instructor course at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The training provides a more cerebral approach to being a loadmaster with planning and contingency response being key points of emphasis.

“The loadmasters’ understanding of tactics, techniques and procedures and how they apply that to a combat environment to best deliver the appropriate effect is an incredibly important benefit gained from the AIC training,” said Maj. David Mackintosh, 86th Operations Support Squadron chief of weapons and tactics. “It’s important they have similar on-par training with their pilot counterparts.”

The three-month program effectively raises the bar for loadmasters across the board. The knowledge gained during training allows them to form a more cohesive, less rigid unit within an aircrew.

Staff Sgt. Dominique Benward, 37th Airlift Squadron loadmaster and recent AIC graduate, is already applying that training in the field. Benward became an expert in the employment of C-130J Super Hercules aircraft and also in the process of coordinating with ground parties and other force assets.

In forward training deployments like ADR, Benward began briefing aircrews on on-call airdrops as a result of his graduation from the training program.

“Within these briefings I define for the aircrews what an on-call airdrop is and how we’ll be preparing for it in the subsequent training mission that follows the briefing,” Benward said. “On top of that, within the AIC training I learned how to be an effective crewmember and not just a loadmaster. For me personally, the training was an incredibly valuable opportunity and I’m grateful I was given that chance.”

The 29th Weapon School Advanced Instructor Course patch is photographed during a pre-flight briefing for the 2021 Aviation Detachment Rotation near Powidz, Poland, Oct. 28.

Mackintosh agrees with the value of this training, stating how necessary it is to keep the ball moving forward.

“This AIC training is absolutely the future for loadmasters,” Mackintosh said. “With loadmasters increasingly becoming a more comprehensive member of the crew, familiarizing them with a high strategic and tactical understanding of the mission is a win for everybody involved.”

Benward said he looks forward to applying what he learned and seeing how others apply their knowledge from the course, as well.

“I’m super excited to see where it’s going to go the next few years so I can see how smart these guys and girls graduating from the course are going to be in this field.”

One thing is clear: the return on investment from this training for loadmasters, like Benward, couldn’t be better for the U.S. Air Force and its mission.