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NEWS | July 27, 2011

25K loader course builds teamwork, trust

By Airman 1st Class Jared Trimarchi Air Mobility Rodeo 2011 Public Affairs

Five-man teams tested their ability to drive, unload, and inspect a 25K aircraft loader, here July 26, as part of Air Mobility Rodeo 2011.

Operators drove the loader, also known as a Halvorsen loader, around an obstacle course of approximately 150 cones, resembling a go-kart track.

One Airman sat behind the wheel while four teammates on foot guided the driver.

"The course was mainly designed to examine the communication skills of each aerial port crew," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Stoks, the event coordinator from the 62nd Aerial Port Squadron. "As the driver, you have a limited view from four small windows, but the four spotters on each corner of the loader, can see everything going on."

The driver compartment of the loader has more buttons, switches and complications than the average motor vehicle. Safety, as always, is a top priority.

"The 25K is the hardest loader to maneuver," Stoks said. "In a deployed environment, there is limited access for loaders and usually an austere terrain. Aerial port crews must ensure they have total control of the vehicle, to avoid hitting a plane or damaging equipment."

Airmen needed to complete the course within a certain amount of time before points were deducted.

"The course is harder than it looks," said Tech. Sgt. Jesric-Edgar Perez, driver representing the 615th Aerial Port Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. "You can't see the cones, and the only thing you can do is trust in your teammates. To win, the spotters must trust the driver and each other mutually."

An aerial port team is like a "band of brothers," depending on one another, he concluded.

Senior Master Sgt. Jerry Rabon, Air Force Global Strike Command aerial port functional manager, said the fast-paced environment simulated by the course mimics the stress of a deployed environment.

"Loading planes in a hostile location is demanding, stressful and dangerous," he said. "Bullets and mortars can be flying nearby, but the job has to get done. It's important to train Airmen to handle stress while under pressure."

The 25K loader driving course is the most important event for aerial porters, Rabon said.

"Events like this train Airmen to think on their feet and trust one another," he said. "You can have pallets ready to go, but if aerial porters can't transport the supplies to the air frame using effective communication and knowledge of the job, food, fuel and bullets won't be sent to support our mission."

A total of 25 teams competed in the course. The event was part of Air Mobility Rodeo 2011, a biennial international competition that focuses on mission readiness, featuring airdrops, aerial refueling and other events that showcase the skills of mobility crews from around the world.