We are The 908th: The 357th Airlift Squadron

  • Published
  • By Bradley J. Clark
  • 908th Airlift Wing

Editor’s note: “We are The 908th” is a 16 part series, running biweekly, detailing the workings of the various units in the 908th Airlift Wing. This is part three, giving insight on the 357th Airlift Squadron.

The 357th Airlift Squadron is the 908th Airlift Wing’s actual flying unit. The squadron is under the command umbrella of the 908th Operations Group.

As mentioned in previous “We are The 908th” parts, the squadron has the only flying mission stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base and currently operates a fleet of nine C-130H2 Hercules cargo aircraft. Known as the "workhorse of the Air Force," this plane can carry 42,000 pounds of cargo and can fly up to 386 mph with a range of 5,200 miles.

Commanded by Lt. Col. Jay Ference, the squadron’s mission is to, “provide C-130 combat capability anywhere, anytime.” The squadron is able to do that by, “providing highly capable and dedicated airmen for global combat operations.”

Having this squadron is what allows the 908th Airlift Wing to have the word airlift in its name, the ability to move people or cargo from one location to another via air transportation. Many describe the 908th as tactical airlift, which means that the wing gets involved at the tactical level instead of the strategic level. Meaning the members of the 357th actually get people and supplies to the front lines of the fight.

They can do this multiple ways.

Transporting service members from one location to another, with the ability to take off and land on surfaces most aircraft wouldn’t even dream of, is a key capability off the C-130. The 357th has taken off and landed in everything from dirt strips in Africa, to dry and cooled lava covered land.

Another way the 357th transports service members is via personnel drops, involving those service members identified as paratroopers. The C-130 is arguably the most common and preferred airframe of the paratrooper to jump out of.

Other things besides people can been seen making its way out of a flying C-130. Cargo air drops are extremely common for C-130s both at home and in combat. Air crews work closely with aerial port members, who are specially trained air transportation specialists, who rig and help load cargo on aircraft for transportation and for air drops.

The third way that the squadron provides tactical airlift if through its ability to be an airframe used for the aeromedical evacuation mission, transporting injured patients from one location to the next level of medical care. This will be covered more in the in the next part of the series focused on the 908th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.

In order to successfully accomplish all of the various missions, the squadron has to have a strong and strict set of priorities for its more than 80 members, 30 of whom are full time with more than 50 being traditional reservists.

According to Ference, the squadron’s current priorities are, “achieving and maintaining proficiency in flight operations for future deployments, continue to support DoD assets and joint training requirements, providing personal training, development and continuing education for member growth.”

The squadron is broken down into nine subsections or flights including the pilot flight, the navigator flight, the engineer section, the loadmaster section, the Squadron Aviation Resource Management section, the training section, the scheduling section, the current operations section and a Commander Support Staff section.

The pilot and navigator flights, “focus on building tactical airlift knowledge and leadership growth,” explained Ference. “They consist of rated officers (pilots and navigators/combat systems operators) and are led by flight commanders who are more senior officers.”

The engineer section has, “aircraft flight engineers who perform pre- and post-flight inspections of the aircraft and operate and monitor engine and aircraft systems in flight. They are the technical advisors to the crew on matters relating to aircraft operation,” continued Ference.

The loadmaster section has, “aircraft loadmasters who accomplish cargo and airdrop loading and downloading functions, and are critical to ensuring aerial delivery of equipment and personnel to support ground operations. They compute aircraft weight and balance, and perform pre- and post-flight duties.”

The Squadron Aviation Resource Management or SARM section has, “personnel who provide reports regarding flight status, mission execution, and training event completion.  They create daily flight authorizations and process members’ flight pay.”

The training section is composed of an instructor from each crew position. “They direct and track the unit’s flight and ground training requirements to ensure we can meet our priorities.”

The scheduling section is represented by one member of each crew position. “They work with training to ensure flights are being optimally scheduled to meet requirements.”

The current operations section is responsible for “the scheduling and execution of all flights.  They work with maintenance to determine aircraft availability and balance the schedule to meet aircrew availability, training requirements, and maximize the flying hour program.  They also work with other DoD assets to assist with fulfilling their requests for airlift support.”

And lastly, just as every other squadron and group, there is a commander’s support staff. “They are the continuity within the squadron.  They process orders, pay, UTA statuses and perform various other tasks that are required by the Commander. They are vastly important in helping move the squadron forward.”

The Squadron’s recent major accomplishments include 98 percent semiannual Mission Accomplishment Completion Rate despite COVID-19 limitations and deploying more than 50 members in support of combatant commands worldwide.

That’s the 357th Airlift Squadron. Next up for “We are The 908th” will be the 908th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron.


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.