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Flying Yankees do the heavy lifting

Staff Sgt. Danny Haynes and Senior Airman Kaitlin Cardello, both loadmasters with the 118th Airlift Squadron, push a container delivery system along the floor rails of a C-130H Hercules aircraft to get the load in position and secure for air delivery on July 12, 2014, at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Connecticut. The aircraft was loaded with two sets of container delivery systems in preparation for multiple air deliveries while flying over Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

Staff Sgt. Danny Haynes and Senior Airman Kaitlin Cardello, both loadmasters with the 118th Airlift Squadron, push a container delivery system along the floor rails of a C-130H Hercules aircraft to get the load in position and secure for air delivery on July 12, 2014, at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Connecticut. The aircraft was loaded with two sets of container delivery systems in preparation for multiple air deliveries while flying over Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

Senior Airman Kaitlin Cardello and Master Sgt. Joseph Amato shift a container delivery system into position on the floor rails of a C-130H Hercules aircraft during an air drop exercise at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Connecticut on July 12, 2014. The exercise started with Airmen like Senior Airman Joseph Hamel (far left) loading the CDS onto a transport vehicle and transferring it onto the C-130H. From there, the loadmasters secure and position the load for air delivery. (Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

Senior Airman Kaitlin Cardello and Master Sgt. Joseph Amato shift a container delivery system into position on the floor rails of a C-130H Hercules aircraft during an air drop exercise at Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Connecticut on July 12, 2014. The exercise started with Airmen like Senior Airman Joseph Hamel (far left) loading the CDS onto a transport vehicle and transferring it onto the C-130H. From there, the loadmasters secure and position the load for air delivery. (Air National Guard Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

Maj. Chris Thiesing (right), tactics officer with the 118th Airlift Squadron, teaches Maj. Garrett Caponetti (center) how to check the winds at the drop zone using an anemometer during an aerial delivery exercise over Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, July 12, 2014. Behind them, the malfunction officer, Master Sgt. Corey Kass, a loadmaster with the 118th Airlift Squadron, looks on. These measurements are up-channeled to the crew on a C-130H Hercules aircraft in the skies above so they can make better calculations and drop the cargo on target. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

Maj. Chris Thiesing (right), tactics officer with the 118th Airlift Squadron, teaches Maj. Garrett Caponetti (center) how to check the winds at the drop zone using an anemometer during an aerial delivery exercise over Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, July 12, 2014. Behind them, the malfunction officer, Master Sgt. Corey Kass, a loadmaster with the 118th Airlift Squadron, looks on. These measurements are up-channeled to the crew on a C-130H Hercules aircraft in the skies above so they can make better calculations and drop the cargo on target. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

Two container delivery systems are jettisoned out the back of a C-130H Hercules aircraft assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing during an aerial drop training mission at the "bean bag" drop zone, Westover Air Reserve Base, Chicopee, Massachusetts, on July 12, 2014. The systems being released consist of four barrels filled with water weighing about 700 pounds and a high-velocity parachute tethered to the system allowing for safe descent to the ground. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

Two container delivery systems are jettisoned out the back of a C-130H Hercules aircraft assigned to the 103rd Airlift Wing during an aerial drop training mission at the "bean bag" drop zone, Westover Air Reserve Base, Chicopee, Massachusetts, on July 12, 2014. The systems being released consist of four barrels filled with water weighing about 700 pounds and a high-velocity parachute tethered to the system allowing for safe descent to the ground. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

In the distance, Senior Airman Kimberly Pronovost twists a high-velocity parachute to contain the cords and prevent tangling as Staff Sgt. Matthew Merrow anchors the parachute. The two air transportation specialists with the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron are field packing the parachute after a successful air delivery training exercise that took place over Westover Air Reserve Base,  Chicopee, Massachusetts on July 12, 2014. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

In the distance, Senior Airman Kimberly Pronovost twists a high-velocity parachute to contain the cords and prevent tangling as Staff Sgt. Matthew Merrow anchors the parachute. The two air transportation specialists with the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron are field packing the parachute after a successful air delivery training exercise that took place over Westover Air Reserve Base, Chicopee, Massachusetts on July 12, 2014. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

Airmen from the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron maneuver the container delivery system onto a truck after a successful air drop training exercise at Westover Air Reserve Base, Chicopee, Massachusetts on July 12, 2014. After collecting the systems, they will be brought back to Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Connecticut, disassembled and repacked for the next mission. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

Airmen from the 103rd Logistics Readiness Squadron maneuver the container delivery system onto a truck after a successful air drop training exercise at Westover Air Reserve Base, Chicopee, Massachusetts on July 12, 2014. After collecting the systems, they will be brought back to Bradley Air National Guard Base, East Granby, Connecticut, disassembled and repacked for the next mission. (Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead/Released)

BRADLEY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE - East Granby, Conn. -- The 118th Airlift Squadron dropped their very first "heavy" last Wednesday, July 23, 2014, over "bean bag drop zone" at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts. As part of the 103rd Airlift Wing, the squadron has been performing these training drops every week since the beginning of June to reach the goal of dropping a heavy.

"It's definitely a milestone," said Tech. Sgt. Erin Rivera, a loadmaster with the 118th Airlift Squadron. "The heavies we dropped today are a simulation of the actual equipment, like tank components and Humvees and other things of that nature that aid troops on the ground."

On this particular drop, there were three loadmasters as opposed to their normal staffing of two. The extra support was needed because this was also the first time the 118th Airlift Squadron dropped a combination of a heavies and a container delivery system.

This CDS, as it is called, is a smaller weighted pallet that simulates a bundled package of food or supplies that can be air dropped into an area where an aircraft cannot land. Earlier this month, the Flying Yankees dropped these systems to sharpen their skills in preparation for dropping heavies.

"We've come a long way and it's a testament to the aerial port folks who are building the equipment we're dropping, a testament to maintenance for keeping the planes flyable and a testament to all of the new navigators, flight engineers, loadmasters and pilots that have all come together from different parts of the Air Force, said Maj. Chris Thiesing, tactics officer with the 118th Airlift Squadron.

Graduating from the container delivery system to the heavies is an accomplishment that many of the Airmen find rewarding and meaningful.

"It feels great to be a part of what's happening here," said Master Sgt. Joseph Amato, loadmaster with the 118th Airlift Squadron. "This drop is definitely a milestone for the entire unit--another of many. To be a part of a cadre that stands up a flying squadron is a professional honor for all respective crew positions."

While the ability to drop heavies is a tremendous milestone for the Flying Yankees, there is still some training that needs to be done to become a fully functioning air mobility unit.
"I think we're on track. We all learn something new every day. I think the operations squadron has been fortunate to receive a good number of prior enlisted folks that are eager to become operators," said Amato.

Rivera said, the 118th Airlift Squadron is looking forward to dropping cargo two days a week and implementing nighttime drops.

Aside from nighttime operations, Thiesing said dropping personnel, such as Army paratroopers, is another milestone to be accomplished.

"It's impressive that we have come so far in our conversion in such a short period of time. We have not had our aircraft a year yet and we are already training for air drop missions with live drops like this one. We have all the pieces in place to continue our conversion well ahead of the timeline," said Col. Fred Miclon, vice commander for the 103rd Airlift Wing while observing a recent drop. "The teamwork and integration between maintenance, operations and mission support to make this happen is impressive to say the least. Once again everyone in the wing is focused on one goal and mission, and to complete our conversion ahead of schedule, getting everyone trained so that we can get back in the fight is what it is all about."

Milestone after milestone, the Flying Yankees are moving ever closer to their goal of mission readiness.

"We're doing a lot of good work and it will be great looking back six months to a year from now to see how far we've come," said Thiesing