34th CTS: training the next generation

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kristine M. Gruwell
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The C-130J Super Hercules was built to perform tactical combat airlift while flying and landing in austere environments. Moving and dropping pallets doesn’t seem to be too daunting until loadmasters have to squeeze uniquely shaped cargo into the back of a C-130, at which point it can seem almost impossible without the correct training and techniques.

“Training as a loadmaster never stops,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Mike Martin, 34th Combat Training Squadron joint operations flight chief. “I may know a technique another load doesn’t, so it’s my job to teach them.”

Martin trains loadmasters for uploading distinctive cargo such as Humvees with trailers or pallets containing Reapers. His squadron plans exercises like Green Flag Little Rock to continue enhancing loadmasters’ skills and create a joint environment for Airmen to learn from each other.

“I always have the goal when I get on an airplane to learn something,” Martin said. “There’s always something to learn because in that one instance where something happens, you know how to react.”

Deciding to retrain from an aerial porter to a loadmaster in 2012, Martin realized he wanted to see the end result of the cargo pallet he used to build. From there, he excelled through his career by constantly learning and understanding the importance of his job, landing him a position at the 34th CTS in the fall of 2018.

“I chose to come to this squadron because of the uniqueness of the mission, being able to teach and give back,” Martin said. “I want to make people better. I have the ability to teach the techniques I have acquired and pass them on to the next generation of loadmasters.”

With a passion for learning and teaching, Martin helps young Airmen problem-solving skills along with new methods of loading.

“I love teaching,” Martin said. “If you show somebody how to do something and you watch them get it the first time – that’s job satisfaction.”

Martin has also learned to mold his teaching process for the next generation of Airmen.

“You have to explain your logic, show your logic and allow Airmen to fail without hitting the airplane or damaging it,” Martin said. “Then lead them to do the right thing and make the right decision.”

Young Airmen have the opportunity to learn tricky maneuvers with cargo under the watchful eye of the observer, coach and trainer ensuring safe and effective mission execution.

“Employing the C-130J for what it was meant to do, delivering cargo, is very important,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ben Evans, 34th CTS mission operations execution specialist. “The 34th CTS training environment allows crews to work on those techniques and find out what isn’t going to work so that doesn’t affect someone trying to get home to their family.”

Ultimately, the goal of any C-130J loadmaster is the same – delivering cargo whenever and wherever it’s needed. Martin forges young loadmasters to take the challenge of flawlessly uploading unique cargo and delivering it safely and efficiently in austere environments. 

“The 34th CTS takes you outside your comfort zone,” Martin said. “We push you to go above and beyond what you should expect for deployment. Every person deployed as aircrew for a C-130J comes through us to get better at their craft.”