As the world-wide pandemic surpasses it’s year mark, aircrew members from the 315th Airlift Wing continues its complex global reach mission, despite the challenges brought by COVID-19.
This mission, already complex, flying two helicopters to South America inside a C-17 Globemaster III, was made more difficult by adding two loadmaster evaluations, a language barrier and precautions put in place due to the ongoing pandemic.
“We have certainly had to adjust how we do business,” said Capt. Dennis Conner, a reserve pilot from the 710st Airlift Squadron who was on the mission. “The bottom line is, we have people who rely on us to do our job, so we will adjust however we need to adjust to get the mission done,” he said.
Senior Master Sgt. Drew Cheek, a loadmaster evaluator with the 315th Operation Group conducted evaluations or “check-rides” on two loadmasters during the mission. The periodic evaluations are designed to gauge the competency and proficiency of aircrew members. “This was a good load for a check-ride,” said Cheek. “There are a lot of critical areas that they have to pay attention to with a load like this. This was a good test for our loadmasters, especially in foreign countries right now.”
Sergeant Cheek also discussed the difficulties of flying missions during the pandemic. “For a while, we just had to waive some of our training requirements and fly what needed to be flown… You know, the world was shut down! Like everything, things were just a little more difficult, but we couldn’t sit at home, we still had a mission to do,” he said.
But, there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel for traveling military members. As other countries slowly start to ease restrictions on pandemic travel requirements, official travel for the military has become less cumbersome.
“Things are a little easier for us now than they were six months ago,” said Capt. Conner. “We have processes in place now for the various missions we fly. Our maintainers have excelled at their mission and taken on additional tasks like sanitizing the aircraft. Our medical teams always ensure we have the appropriate protective equipment to keep us safe. Every mission we fly is a constant reminder that everything we do is a team effort.”
“At the end of the day, I think we are all ready for things to get back to normal, but until they do, we will continue to fly and take care of each other,” said Capt. Conner.