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Loadmasters hone skills during training, humanitarian mission

by Staff Sgt. Monica Dalberg
514th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

2/28/2011 - JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. (AFNS) -- When one C-17 Globemaster III left here Feb. 25, there were a few more loadmasters aboard than usual. A training mission was in the works, but the extra hands were put to use for a humanitarian mission that coincided with the training.

The aircrew made stops at Langley Air Force Base, Va., MacDill AFB, Fla., and Charleston AFB, S.C.

Along the way, the crew from the 732nd Airlift Squadron accomplished training requirements, picked up humanitarian cargo and delivered it to the Denton Program offices at Charleston AFB.

Under the Denton Program, the Defense Department is authorized to use extra space on military cargo aircraft to transport assistance material donated by private organizations for humanitarian relief. Free transportation for donations is on a space-available basis and cannot be undertaken at any cost to the U.S. government, other than the cost of the transportation itself.

Throughout the flight, crew members were evaluated on their abilities to carry out crew duties safely and efficiently in accordance with their checklists.

"Missions like this one give us the opportunity to maximize training time," said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Clayton, a 732nd AS loadmaster. "We were able to accomplish currency requirements, training requirements and a periodic evaluation, all while going to multiple destinations and uploading and downloading humanitarian cargo."

The mission provided an opportunity for the loadmasters to display their readiness and flexibility.

"We show up to fly a mission not knowing where we're going, what we're going to be doing sometimes, or even the significance of our mission," said Staff Sgt. William Walker, a 732rd AS loadmaster. "It feels good when we deliver our cargo, and a few days later we'll see the effects of our mission on television and know we've taken part in a great way."

At Langley AFB, the crew loaded three palettes of humanitarian cargo destined for the South American country of Guyana. A private nonprofit organization from Virginia worked closely with a group in Guyana to identify the needs of a rehabilitation clinic that treats handicapped and disabled children.

The club collected a broad range of donations that are unavailable or difficult to acquire in the Guyana. Items such as school and art supplies, textbooks, musical instruments, toys, exercise equipment and an ultrasound machine were gathered to provide rehabilitation and exercise for the underprivileged children treated at the clinic. The Virginia-based club expects that some 800 people will benefit from the donations.

"It feels nice to contribute to something that started out in a community, a club or a church group, and now we're taking it on the next leg of the trip, getting it to where it needs to go," said Maj. Michael Prodeline, a 732nd AS pilot and aircraft commander for the mission. "It's great that we can be part of something so vital to a group of people while we're just doing normal routine training."

The second pick up was at MacDill AFB. Six palettes of supplies were donated by various organizations in southern Florida and are intended for delivery to rural areas of Afghanistan.

The people of Afghanistan suffer from a shortage of medical care, and the country has the second highest infant mortality rate in the world, according to the Central Intelligence Agency. Taliban fighters and insurgents often intercept delivery of medical inventory, or destroy hospitals and clinics as a way to punish the local population for supporting American forces and their allies.

The Denton cargo picked up from MacDill AFB contained surgical supplies, personal-hygiene kits, baby formula and bottles to help alleviate the shortage.

Although the humanitarian donations were for people in dire need from other countries, one crew member hoped to bring something home from the mission.

"My wife and I are expecting our first child -- a son -- in May," said Staff Sgt. Todd Blaylock, a 732nd AS loadmaster. "Taking part in missions like this, with the potential to touch and save many lives, will allow me to set a good example and show him the importance of helping others the world over."

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