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

paratroopers prepare to load an aircraft

U.S. Department of Defense members, international paratrooper students and Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade board the 908th Airlift Wing’s C-130 Hercules, March 11, 2020, on the flightline at Lawson Army Airfield, Fort Benning, Georgia. The 908th AW regularly provides aircraft support to assist other DOD members in their training and missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

navigator checks instruments.

U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. James Kersey, 357th Airlift Squadron navigator, goes through the preflight check list, March 11, 2020, on the flightline at 908th Airlift Wing, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Navigators are constantly calculating the wind and weather information to direct the paratroopers on when they can and cannot jump. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

an aircrew member goes through preflight checklist

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Janie Murray, 357th Airlift Squadron flight engineer, goes through the preflight check list, March 11, 2020, on the flightline at 908th Airlift Wing, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Flight engineers like Murray are the aircraft systems’ experts who are tasked with monitoring the aircraft’s performance before, during and after the flight; as well as executing emergency procedures if necessary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

a man looks out an aircraft window

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Andrew Jeter, 357th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, looks out the window of the C-130 Hercules, March 11, 2020, near Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Loadmasters are an essential part of the 908th Airlift Wing’s mission since they perform tasks that range from loading, offloading, rigging and airdropping to aeromedical evacuations and assisting maintainers in evaluating the aircraft’s cargo compartments and engines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

paratroopers put on their required equipment to jump from an aircraft

U.S. Department of Defense members, international paratroopers and Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade ready their gear, March 11, 2020, at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Georgia. Students and service members across the international paratrooper community came together for a full day of qualifying in the Static Line Symposium. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

paratroopers prepare to load an aircraft

U.S. Department of Defense members, international paratroopers and Soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade prepare to board a C-130 Hercules, March 11, 2020, at the Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Georgia. Students and service members across the international paratrooper community came together for a full day of qualifying in the Static Line Symposium. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

people jump out of an aircraft

U.S. Army soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade exit a C-130 Hercules, March 11, 2020, above Fryar Field Drop Zone, Fort Benning Military Reservation, Alabama. Students jumped from the aircraft at an altitude of about 1,250 feet above ground level while jumpmasters jumped from an altitude of about 800 feet above ground level. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

a man kneels looking our of an aircraft

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eric McKenzie, 357th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, looks out the rear door of a C-130 Hercules, March 11, 2020, above Fryar Field Drop Zone, Fort Benning Military Reservation, Alabama. Loadmasters are an essential part of the 908th Airlift Wing’s mission since they perform tasks that range from loading, offloading, rigging and airdropping to aeromedical evacuations and assisting maintainers in evaluating the aircraft’s cargo compartments and engines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

a soldier prepares to jump from an aircraft

A U.S. Army soldier of the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade prepares to exit a C-130 Hercules, March 11, 2020, above Fryar Field Drop Zone, Fort Benning Military Reservation, Alabama. Students jumped from the aircraft at an altitude of about 1,250 feet above ground level while jumpmasters jumped from an altitude of about 800 feet above ground level. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

two men pull in static lines
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U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eric McKenzie, 357th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and a U.S. Army jumpmaster of the 1st Battalion, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade, retrieve static lines, March 11, 2020, above Fryar Field Drop Zone, Fort Benning Military Reservation, Alabama. Static Lines are used to automatically deploy a paratrooper’s parachute the moment they exit the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Shelby Thurman)

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

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!”