Critically Manned: Loadmaster, flexibility is key to success

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Josh Slavin
  • 355th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Loadmasters assigned to the 563rd Rescue Group at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., transport wounded civilians and special forces members in and out of dangerous territory while being responsible for equipment deliveries in far-flung areas. And there aren't enough of them.

A loadmaster's job consists of an array of different tasks, from accomplishing loading and off-loading aircraft to computing weight and balance for cargo. They also play a role in the mission once the aircraft is airborne. They monitor cargo and passengers, provide assistance to passengers as required, and demonstrate the use of emergency equipment such as oxygen masks and life vests.

Master Sgt. Michael Boyles, 563rd Rescue Group loadmaster, believes the job is very tough and demanding but is extremely rewarding at the same time. "My favorite thing about being a loadmaster and working in the 563rd RQG is knowing that I was part of saving someone's life," Boyles said. "That is the most rewarding thing. 'These things we do, that others may live.'"

The 79th Rescue Squadron has approximately 30 loadmaster manning authorizations and have only filled approximately half of those. Some of the manned positions are deployed.

Boyles thinks flexibility is key. It takes a special type of Airman to handle the job. "We [are] undermanned because it is difficult to keep Airmen in the career field due to the unstable work schedule and constant traveling," said Boyles. "It is tough on the guys with families, and some of them prefer a set schedule."

Being part of the 563rd RQG presents D-M's loadmasters with a varied mission. The 563rd RQG specializes in combat search and rescue missions. This puts a higher emphasis on transporting special forces troops and injured military personnel.

The primary duties for an HC-130J Combat King II loadmaster include assisting in the recovery of distressed or isolated personnel, using night vision goggles for tactical flight profiles to avoid detection and accomplishing covert infiltration and exfiltration operations while transferring patients in and out of dark, rough, short airfields.