Loadmasters Vital to Tactical Air Drop Mission Published May 7, 2021 By Staff Sgt. Max Goldberg 908th Airlift Wing MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Members of the 357th Airlift Squadron took part in a few tactical air drops as part of a monthly tactical flying week that happened to take place during a wing-wide exercise named Auburn Tide here in late March. The exercise is intended to demonstrate the 908th Airlift Wing’s pre-deployment readiness while sharpening the skills of 908th Airmen in the weeks leading up to the largest deployment in the wing’s history. Loadmasters with the 357th AS rigged and loaded heavy equipment bundles onto several aircraft which were then dropped over a predetermined location. These drops simulated the way supplies are delivered to service members in deployed locations across the globe. Loadmasters are responsible for properly placing both cargo and personnel on the aircraft before flight. Calculating proper weight distribution and securely fastening equipment are all considerations a loadmaster must make before the aircraft can safely take off. The exercise required cooperation on the part of several units in order to successfully prepare, drop and recover the bundles. Airmen from the 25th Aerial Port Squadron have a hand in securing and recovering the drops, 357th AS navigators determine the time and location of the drops and 357th loadmasters ensure the cargo is safely and properly loaded and placed on the aircraft. “When we train like this, we just drop sandbags but we’re actually simulating mission critical supplies,” said Senior Airman Wyatt Slayton, a loadmaster with the 357th AS. “In a combat situation, we need to get those to troops down on the ground, so this training is really important.” The 357th AS plays an integral part in the 908th’s tactical airlift mission and demonstrated its readiness throughout the course of this exercise. Auburn Tide concluded after a week and served to enhance mission readiness as the wing gears up for its biggest deployment to date. Located at Maxwell Air Force Base and operating a fleet of nine C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft, the 908th is Alabama’s only Air Force Reserve wing. The wing has approximately 1,200 Reserve Citizen Airmen, serving in more than 20 career fields, with Air Reserve Technicians, civilian employees and Reservists on active duty tours conducting day-to-day operations. Over the spring and summer of 2021, the 908th will engage in the largest deployment in wing history - sending more than 300 Airmen to locations around the globe.