Tag Archives: Joint Base San Antonio Lackland

So you want to be a loadmaster?

Name: Airman 1st Class Austin Thompson
Unit: 344th Training Squadron
Where are you from: St. George, Utah

Airman 1st Class Austin Thompson (Courtesy photo)
Airman 1st Class Austin Thompson (Courtesy photo)

Why did you join?
My obsession for all things aviation and the military sparked my idea to join and I tried to learn as much as I could from watching documentaries and YouTube videos. I joined the United States Air Force to do something different from the rest of my peers. I hope to make a career out of it.

What was your experience with the Air Force before joining?
While in high school, I was part of an Air Force Junior ROTC program with more than 350 students from five different high schools. The cadre were all awesome instructors who shared their interesting stories and life details that also shaped my decision to join. Also, my uncle just retired last year after over 20 years in the Air Force.

What does your family think of you becoming an Airman?
My family has supported me through all of my decisions to join the military. They are proud of me for what I’ve chosen to do and believe that I can do greater good for myself, my family and those around me while I am serving.

What was your recruiting experience like?
While working with my recruiter, I was given a lot of options on what I could do. After a few months of going through the process of enlisting, I swore into the United States Air Force July 12, 2013, with a list of five jobs picked. Almost 10 months later, just as I was graduating high school, I was assigned my job. I would be an aircraft loadmaster or Air Force Specialty Code 1A2X1. The final months that lead up to my BMT date I spent researching and gathering all the information I could get.

You’ve made it this far, what was your impression of Basic Military Training (BMT)?
August 13, 2013, was my first day in BMT. It was a lot different than I expected. The overall experience was more focused on learning about the Air Force and team work than just about being a warrior.

What came next for you after graduating BMT?
I traveled a short distance to tech school at the 344th Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. I was finally ready to get on with my training as an aircraft loadmaster apprentice and see what the job was all about.
After the first week, which is known as Students Awaiting Training week, my job training began with the Career Enlisted Aviator (CEA) portion. This part of the training is for anyone who is going into an enlisted aviator career field whether it is loadmaster or a boom operator or another aircrew position. Here you start with aircrew fundamentals, a two-week course that teaches aircrew responsibilities, basic aircraft functionalities, safety procedures, safety equipment, and the different missions of each job and what they do. All the aircrew also attend a two-day course on how to tell the difference in your own hypoxia symptoms, how to deal with those, and why it is so important to use an oxygen mask if something happens while in-flight.

How was the hypoxia chamber?
The hypoxia training, or the Chamber as we call it, was probably the funniest thing I’ve done in training. Airmen attempt to complete tasks like simple math problems while being exposed to the effects of oxygen deficiency so they can recognize the symptoms. Being able to watch my fellow Airmen not be able to do simple tasks and realize that they need to do something to keep themselves conscious really brought it to my attention that the we receive our training for a reason, and that it’s for us to be able to keep ourselves and our fellow Airmen alive.

What happens once you learn the basics of being aircrew?
After the two weeks in aircrew fundamentals, you transition to the course for your actual career field. For loadmasters the course takes approximately two months. The classes cover everything from math procedures for finding the balance and weight of the aircraft for cargo loading procedures, to learning the different mission sets of our career field like airdrops, cargo loading and unloading. I also learned how to safely secure cargo to the aircraft, different types of passengers and safety procedures.

What was the next step in your training pipeline?
After the Basic Loadmaster Course, I became a detail Airman while I wait on my security clearance which can take some time. Since then, I have been able to complete water survival at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. There I learned how to survive in a water landing scenario. The instruction covers signaling rescue aircraft, hazardous aquatic life, food and water procurement, medical aspects of water survival and life raft procedures. To simulate an emergency in-flight over water you parasail and practice parachute descents. That course was a total of five days and is required for all officer and enlisted aircrew members. If we didn’t receive that training I wouldn’t know how to handle that type of emergency.

What has been your favorite part of training so far?
My favorite training so far would have to be either the load trainer, where you load cargo onto a C-130 training device, or parachute water survival.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned so far?
That no matter what, safety and communication are key. Also, never be afraid to ask a question about something.

What other training will you receive?
To add onto that experience, I am still waiting for a class at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, for SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) training. SERE is a 19-day course required for all officer and enlisted aircrew members. After that I’ll go to C-17 Initial Qualification Training (IQT) at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. This course ranges from over three months to six months depending on if your projected assignment does or does not do airdrops. Other aircraft available to aircraft loadmasters are the C-130 and the C-5 with their airframe specific courses ranging from two to eight months long.

Do you know where you’ll be heading next?
Toward the end of our two month training here at JBSA-Lackland, we received our future duty stations. I was assigned Travis Air Force Base, California working on C-17s, but it can change. From what I’ve heard about Travis it’s a wonderful base to be at and I’m excited. I’ve done my research to a basic level on the C-17 and I know the aircraft is an awesome workhorse and can do practically every mission available.

How do you feel about how your job fits into the overall Air Force mission?
My job has a very important role within the Air Force. Not only does the Air Force rely on us and our aircraft to transport cargo and personnel from one place to another, but so do the other branches of the military.

What do you look forward to about doing the job?
The main thing I look forward to is the travel, and just being able to know that somehow, somewhere I am helping someone by delivering cargo, personnel or even someone’s loved one.

What’s behind the name of an Air Force Base?

By Senior Airman Michelle Patten
Air Force Social Media

Unless you’re a history buff, you may serve for years at a location without thinking about the story behind your Air Force base’s name. You might have some vague idea that the name comes from some general who served long ago, but who was that Airman?

  • Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington
Base dedication ceremony
Gen. Nathan F. Twining, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen Gen. Curtis E. LeMay and Brig Gen. C. J. Bondley Jr. step off a plane at Spokane Air Force Base to attend the dedication ceremony July 20, 1951. Spokane Air Force Base was officially named Fairchild during the base dedication ceremony. The base was named for Gen. Muir S. Fairchild, former Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force and a Bellingham, Wash., native. (Historical photo)

Continue reading What’s behind the name of an Air Force Base?

Adventure to Lackland: What did I get myself into?

By Senior Airman Soo C. Kim
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

Editor’s note: This is part one of a series detailing this author’s experiences at Air Force Basic Military Training and beyond.

“What the heck did I get myself into?”

Those were the only words running through my mind in that dark room.

I looked to my left and right and saw unfamiliar sleeping faces. The cold metal bed frame squeaked with the slightest movement, the mattress was hard as a rock, and the comforter was scruffy and uncomfortable. There was a stranger above my bed who couldn’t stop rolling in his slumber, and there I was, unable to sleep because of the same words echoing in my head, “What the HECK did I get myself into?”

That was my very first night of Basic Military Training in the United States Air Force – I was nervous and deathly afraid of what was to come.

Continue reading Adventure to Lackland: What did I get myself into?

Building Airmen: A MTI’s perspective

No matter how long it has been since you completed basic military training, every Airman remembers their military training instructor. The yelling, humorous antics and valued mentorship…What are some of your fondest memories of your MTI?

Read Airman Magazine’s story on Tech. Sgt. Chananyah S. Stuart, 323rd Training Squadron military training instructor, on how he takes civilians and molds them into Airmen in eight weeks: Making Airmen.

Combat couple: staff sergeant reflects on trading drink orders for deployment orders

by Staff Sgt. Shaun Hostutler
edited by Meredith March, Defense Media Activity Air Force Production

(Editor’s note: Staff Sgt. Shaun Hostutler is a broadcaster and her husband, Marine Sgt. Aaron Hostutler, is a photojournalist. Shaun is on her first tour in Afghanistan as a combat correspondent. While the couple and their children have been separated by prior deployments, this is the first time Shaun has deployed while Aaron remained stateside. Shaun and Aaron have agreed to share this unique military experience with Air Force Live.)

It all started with a Q-tip.

Well, actually, the Q-tip is the beginning of something else (we’ll save that story for later). I suppose the best way to start this story would be to share how I came to be a member of the world’s finest Air Force in the first place.

That’s why you’re here after all, isn’t it?

When I first started out in the Air Force, I was determined to stay focused. After dropping out of college and moving home to Austin (I couldn’t pay for tuition on my own after a year and a half at Baylor), I had spent a few years bartending. While the job was fun, it was just that – a job. I had always promised myself I wouldn’t settle into a job; I would establish a career in a field that I had genuine passion for. I wanted to be a journalist.

In bartending, there was free booze but no benefits and no health insurance. I had barely enough money to pay bills, feed my dog, buy some ramen noodles and send the rest to family who needed it. And sometimes, there was barely enough for the ramen noodles.

I can’t tell you how creative cooking can get when you’ve got next to nothing in the fridge and your power is cut off.

After two years of cleaning crusted puke and urine from bathroom stalls, being grabbed at by frat boys who couldn’t hold their liquor or control their bladders, and having to force a flirtatious smile all the while (because a sour face makes no money), I was convinced that I had failed. Some friends had graduated from college, others were starting careers. They were moving forward and I was going nowhere.

How would I find a way to finish school, land the perfect job, do what I love, make a good living, and establish world peace before I turned 21? My standards were high and unrealistic at times, but I held onto them.

I determined the easiest way to get to a combat zone and begin my career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist – without having to pour coffee for some editor while scraping together enough money to live – would be to enlist in the military. Why hadn’t I thought of this before?

I went to the first recruiting office I could find. I grew up an Army brat and figured, why the hell not? The Army office was closed that day, but the Air Force recruiter was in his office. From what I hear, it’s usually the other way around. I have never regretted walking into that office.

The life that the Air Force promised seemed to be so much more.

They emphasized education, encouraged independent thinking, and rewarded hard work. Not only did I find that I would be able to deploy, but I could also guarantee a job as a news broadcaster if I could pass a voice audition. I jumped at the chance. Maybe I wouldn’t be the next Eddie Adams right away, but I could go for being the next Christiane Amanpour or Lisa Ling. A few short weeks later, I was on a blue bus, on my way to basic training at what was then called Lackland Air Force Base – the “Gateway to the Air Force” – in San Antonio, Texas.

When I first enlisted, I had no idea how hard it would be to volunteer for a combat deployment. My military training instructor at basic nearly spit his coffee in my face, laughing when I asked during the second week of training how soon would it be before I could get an assignment to Afghanistan. I had to get in country before the war was over, because I knew that even though the war had reached its seven year mark and the nation was preparing to send in a surge, it could end at any moment and I’d miss my chance.

It would be five years before I would finally deploy.

It seemed to me that I was always in the right place at the wrong time. No matter how often I raised my hand to go, there was always a roadblock. I think it was fate’s sense of humor. It wouldn’t be until I stopped waving my hand like a six-year-old with a pressing question that I’d actually be able to go.

I thought it was never going to happen.

I guess that brings us to where we are now. Five years passed. In the time it took for me to finally get orders to Afghanistan, I was promoted, got married, moved across the world, was promoted again, had a baby, was tasked for two deployments that were canceled, had another baby, and returned to the States.

Just as my husband and I were getting settled in at my third duty station and looking to buy a house, he received orders to Afghanistan. And I was staying home with the kids. I wanted to be happy for him. Secretly, I was annoyed.

But life has a funny way of working things out. After all, I am writing to you from Afghanistan. Must be that funny sense of humor fate has again. Call it luck or pure coincidence, but this time his orders were canceled and mine finally stuck. I call it fate. It’s hard not to, when it was something as small as a Q-tip that got us to where we are now.

But like I said, that’s a story for another day.