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97 LRS continues to support sole C-17 airdrop training mission

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A warning sign is posted outside an airdrop zone, April 3, 2020, at the Sooner Drop Zone, Oklahoma. The purpose of the airdrop mission is to provide C-17 Globemaster III aircrews with realistic training scenarios, which consists of on-and-off loading of general cargo and vehicles as well as aerial delivery materials such as pallets, for airdrop training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

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A C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) unloads two Container Delivery System (CDS) pallets over a drop zone, April 3, 2020, at the Sooner Drop Zone, Oklahoma. During this training mission, two CDS pallets and four heavy equipment pallets were dropped in support of the training mission at Altus AFB.. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

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Three C-17 Globemaster IIIs assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing (AMW) prepare for an airdrop mission, April 3, 2020, at the Sooner Drop Zone, Oklahoma. The C-17 can perform tactical airlift, airdrop and transport missions during aeromedical evacuations when required. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

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A C-17 Globemaster III assigned to the 97th Air Mobility Wing unloads two Container Delivery System (CDS) pallets over a drop zone, April 3, 2020, at the Sooner Drop Zone, Oklahoma. Heavy equipment pallets and CDS pallets are the two types of airdrop pallets the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron uses for training. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Devin Ulbric (right) and Senior Airman Andrew Walstra, air transportation specialists assigned to the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron, fold a parachute after an airdrop, April 3, 2020, at the Sooner Drop Zone, Oklahoma. Before an airdrop is performed, the 97th LRS is responsible for the proper packaging of the parachutes and pallets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

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U.S. Air Force 1st Class Andrew Shepard, an air transportation specialist assigned to the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron (LRS), picks up a pallet after an airdrop, April 3, 2020, at the Sooner Drop Zone, Oklahoma. The 97th LRS is responsible for air delivery flight packs, inspecting and supplying training cargo pallets for the 58th Airlift Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

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U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicolas Light (left) and Airman 1st Class Devin Ulbrich, air transportation specialists assigned to the 97th LRS, pack up a parachute after an airdrop, April 3, 2020, at the Sooner Drop Zone, Oklahoma. Properly repackaging parachutes prevents them from becoming tangled or damaged so that the air transportation specialists can efficiently reuse them for future training missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Breanna Klemm)

ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

 

A typical day for an air transportation specialist assigned to the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron includes precisely packaging 64 feet of parachute, securing two tons of material onto a handmade pallet while safely executing its transportation aboard the world’s most flexible cargo aircraft, at Altus Air Force Base, Okla. 

After five hours of assembling pallets and packing parachutes, all the hard work is showcased as a C-17 Globemaster III flies low with its backdoor open. In less than 30 seconds, multiple heavy equipment and container delivery system pallets will fall from the sky with the goal of landing safely on the ground. 

After the C-17’s have made their rounds and unloaded all pallets, air transportation specialists collect the open parachutes and pallets from the drop zone to take them back to base, where they will start the process over. 

“Airdrop is a pretty simple concept, but the amount of work that goes into it is immense,” said Tech. Sgt. Brad Edwards, the drop zone control officer assigned to the 97th Operations Support Squadron. “We basically are using training platforms to simulate dropping supplies or any type of heavy equipment that would be delivered to a location, which is only reachable by air.”

The 97th LRS at Altus AFB provides cargo loading equipment support for pilot and career enlisted aviator training. They are essential to the Air Force and its aircrew because of how involved they are with the aircrew training mission.

Each airdrop carries with it tactical importance for downrange missions, meaning Airmen assigned from the 97th LRS must be qualified to ensure total mission success and safety at locations around the world. 

“Our job in LRS is important to the base in many ways, the biggest being we are the only formal C-17 training unit in the Air Force,” said Edwards. “Everybody that will ever work with airdrops off a C-17 througout their career has to come through us for training. We are the instructors who make sure students know what they are doing in order to complete their mission, whatever it may be, while keeping everyone safe.”

With the importance of their job, air transportation specialists have continued working in the midst of COVID-19 mitigation efforts to ensure loadmaster and pilot trainees are provided with fully-functional, operation-ready Air Force equipment.

“If we were to stop the mission here for any reason, we would not be sending out qualified aircrews to the operational Air Force,” said Edwards. “That means in places where they are needed, we would not be able to supply them with the qualified people, and that’s the point of our whole mission here. We train aircrews capable of accomplishing any mission.”

Along with other squadrons around base, the 97th LRS continues their mission with the implementation of health and safety procedures towards combating COVID-19. With the constant hard work and dedication from the Airmen of the 97th LRS, the 97th Air Mobility Wing can continue successfully complete its mission of training exceptional mobility Airmen throughout COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

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