908th Airlift Wing’s Unique Relationship with DoD’s only Airborne School

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shelby Thurman
  • 908th Airlift Wing

The fog was starting to dissipate on Maxwell’s flightline as the crew walked along the painted yellow line to the C-130 Hercules. Their shoulders weighed down by equipment that was readied for the long journey ahead. On March 11, 2020, the pilots, flight engineers, loadmasters and a navigator of the 908th Airlift Wing’s 357th Airlift Squadron were ready to take off for Lawson Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Georgia.

The 357th crew was tasked with providing an aircraft for the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade. This mission was in support of the Static Line Symposium, which consisted of students and jumpmasters of the Basic Airborne Course as well as leadership from all around the airborne community.

The mission of the 1st Batt., 507th PIR, is to train paratroopers in order to provide the Department of Defense with Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines so that they can conduct airborne operations anywhere DoD-wide. In doing this, they are able to forge the paratrooper spirit in the junior leadership of the DoD and provide a world-class quality of life for all service members, civilians and their families.

Before any of them can jump they need to be able to fly; and the Air Force is always there with the wings.

But no one on the 357th crew knew more about the paratrooper side of things other than former Army National Guard paratrooper, Tech. Sgt. Eric McKenzie, 357th AS loadmaster.

“Being a loadmaster now is awesome for me because I’m able to see the other side of the job,” said McKenzie.

Having someone on the 357th’s team that has lived both sides of the jump is beneficial to all parties’ better understanding of the impact of the mission at hand.

Being able to see the paratroopers successfully deploy their parachutes and land from the view of the flight deck window reminds 1st Lt. James Kersey, 357th AS navigator, that he is supporting something much bigger than himself, he said.

“The training that we helped provide was beneficial to our armed forces overall,” said Kersey. “One day, those trainees will become jumpmasters and they’ll be in charge of their own squadrons or in a combat environment.”

All of these first-hand experiences demonstrate that it takes many individuals to come together in order for just one of these operations to happen. This is why members of the 357th were in contact with Sgt. 1st Class Jason Schultz, jump branch master trainer of the 1st Battalion, 507th PIR, ARTB.

“We greatly appreciate the unit coming and helping so that we would be able to complete the operation,” said Schultz.

Understanding how it takes multiple teams across various branches in order to succeed in just one mission shows just how much effort goes into making sure that service members are fully trained and ready for anything at a moment’s notice.

“The mission was a great success,” said McKenzie. “I can’t wait to get back in the air!”