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Loadmasters help reposition Australian Defense Forces

Staff Sgt. Joleen Manuia and Master Sgt. Mike Cumberland review publications before departing from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, on Thursday, May 25, 2006. Sergeant Manuia is with the Hawaii Air National Guard's 204th Airlift Squadron. Sergeant Cumberland is with the 535th AS at Hickam. Both are C-17 Globemaster III loadmasters. They are two of the Air Force crew members helping move equipment and troops from the Solomon Islands to Australia, repositioning Australian Defense Forces to support peace operations in East Timor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

Staff Sgt. Joleen Manuia and Master Sgt. Mike Cumberland review publications before departing from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, on Thursday, May 25, 2006. Sergeant Manuia is with the Hawaii Air National Guard's 204th Airlift Squadron. Sergeant Cumberland is with the 535th AS at Hickam. Both are C-17 Globemaster III loadmasters. They are two of the Air Force crew members helping move equipment and troops from the Solomon Islands to Australia, repositioning Australian Defense Forces to support peace operations in East Timor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Shane A. Cuomo)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Master Sgt. Mike Cumberland, a C-17 loadmaster with the 535th Airlift Squadron, Hickam AFB Hawaii, measures a tie-down chain to ensure a Halvorsen aircraft pallet loader is safely secured prior to a strategic airlift mission May 25.  Hickam sent two C-17s and approximately 25 personnel to assist the Australian Defense Force move personnel and equipment to Australia from the Solomon Islands to support peace operations in East Timor after continued unrest between East Timorese military forces and breakaway groups of police and military.  (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE, Hawaii -- Master Sgt. Mike Cumberland, a C-17 loadmaster with the 535th Airlift Squadron, Hickam AFB Hawaii, measures a tie-down chain to ensure a Halvorsen aircraft pallet loader is safely secured prior to a strategic airlift mission May 25. Hickam sent two C-17s and approximately 25 personnel to assist the Australian Defense Force move personnel and equipment to Australia from the Solomon Islands to support peace operations in East Timor after continued unrest between East Timorese military forces and breakaway groups of police and military. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Shane Cuomo)

TOWNSVILLE, Australia -- The U.S. Pacific Command is using its new strategic airlift capability to help the Australian Defense Force. At the request of the Australian Government two C-17 Globemaster III’s from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii are moving equipment and troops from the Solomon Islands back to Australia. This will help Australia position its forces to respond more rapidly to unrest in neighboring East Timor.

Although the C-17’s are doing the flying the biggest part of the mission is the loading and unloading of passengers and cargo.

“Basically, we’re in charge of passenger safety, we’re in charge of ensuring the cargo is loaded correctly, and that the weight and balance is correct so that the aircraft will fly safely.” said Master Sgt. Mike Cumberland a loadmaster from the 535th Airlift Squadron.

“Weight and balance, input incorrectly, can cause an aircraft to crash, so we have a tremendous responsibility on our shoulders,” he said.

In the flying career field for enlisted Air Force members training and qualifications are a top priority. One of the unique qualities is that Chief Master Sgt.s and Airman straight out of tech school are all qualified and operate at the same level.

“It is experience where it all comes in,” said MSgt Cumberland. “It’s techniques that you pass on down the line later, things you run into, things you’ve seen, a faster way of doing things and safely,” he said

With a full tank of fuel the C-17 can carry about 165,000 pounds of cargo and passengers. With its flexibility the C-17 can get to just about any airfield in the world and transport just about anything in the U.S. or other country’s Department of Defense. So far Trek 21, the call sign for one of Hickam’s C-17’s, has hauled approximately 100,000 pounds for the Australians.

“Being a loadmaster is great. There’s a lot of responsibility in it, there’s a lot of travel, transporting the troops and cargo – it’s very satisfying to be able to get everything in the plane on time and take off on time and just get things done,” said Airman James Ngo a loadmaster from the 535th Airlift Squadron.