Flying Yankees do the heavy lifting

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joshua Mead
  • 103rd Airlift Wing
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