I decided to stick with the “eliminate” theme for this string of articles even though it causes a little more drama than is necessary. It is an excellent way to determine if the person responding has read the article, or merely read the headline. Much like my last article, I do not seriously mean to eliminate all loadmasters. They play a vital role in the Air Force’s global mobility mission. What I propose is that we significantly alter when and how they perform the loading/unloading functions.
There has been a program in the Air Transportation world called APEX or Aerial Port Expeditor for many years and the Phase II program before that. It is quite simply a program that trains a 2T2 to perform the role of the loadmaster. This ability provides an aerial port the flexibility to load aircraft long before the aircrew arrives and to start right away once maintenance gives the green light. But the program is showing secondary effects that are beginning to play out.
Loadmasters are losing opportunities to load at aerial ports with the APEX program which is reducing their proficiency. Additionally, it is becoming somewhat difficult for them to maintain their qualifications or currency because the port is loading many of the aircraft.
To solve this, I have heard discussions about potentially limiting the amount of aircraft the port can APEX, or only uploads that meet weight or pallet minimums will be eligible. To be blunt, these are dumb solutions, and I hope we discuss them just long enough to discover how this would not make the Air Force better but how it serves to maintain the status quo. So, what is the solution?
This is a difficult problem to fix, but I think it is essential to move forward instead of staying the same. We can automatically eliminate the options of getting rid of the APEX program or limiting it. The solution I see as being the most beneficial is by creating a Flying Port Dawg program.
The FPD would be modeled after the Flying Crew Chief program. Why recreate the wheel if someone has already completed the work? This should use the program only for air-land operations. No air-drop missions yet! And only for C5 and C17 aircraft. We could start with simple channel missions to more robust ports to build the program and then expand it from there to support contingency missions and SAAMs. There would be a need for additional training to ensure they perform any loadmaster responsibilities performed while in flight, but it would also be an excellent opportunity to look at those tasks to determine if they are still important. And much like the FCC program, when they are at home station, they are working in their assigned section. Hopefully not ATOC, since I’ve already tried to reimagine its functionality.
There is a manpower cost to this program, but if implemented, there would be an excess of loadmasters to realign. This is not meant to start a battle of who is more important, but to highlight that much of the tasks performed by these two AFSCs overlap and the difference in who does the work between a 1A2 or a 2T2 is impossible to distinguish.