Eliminate Loadmasters

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.

 

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29 thoughts on “Eliminate Loadmasters

  1. APEX does not perform the function of a Loadmaster. They perform part of what the Lodmaster does on the ground with a routine load of pallets/vehicles. “Providing additional training for the duties a Lodmaster performs inflight” is saying a lot. This is not a CBT. APEX is not available worldwide. It is only available at a handful of bases. Loadmasters are qualified to perform all necessary duties, in flight and on the ground… worldwide, in any environment.
    Since we already have well-qualified Loadmasters doing the job (the wheel), the smart thing to do is have the “support function” (APEX) coordinate with the crew and determine if their support is needed, or if the crew needs the training. Thus, not recreating the wheel. My2cents.

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    1. Interesting perspective. As long as we take a meaningful and unbiased look at the processed, and prevent the loadmaster or port dawg pride from getting in the way, there is a “best” solution to the issue. Thank you for reading and your comment!

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    1. Really Mr. Goldberry? That’s all the thought you can put behind the subject? You might have misspelled color and should probably recheck that definition of nonner…either way, I appreciate you taking the time to read the article and perhaps it will lead to a productive discussion, take care.

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      1. It’s an interesting idea. I’m not sure you understand what a loadmaster does in flight. You compare your FPD program to the FCC program which leads me to believe you are not aware of the responsibility a loadmaster carries in flight. An FCC has no in flight responsibility and does not require crew rest per se. Loadmasters do so much more than load cargo. I’m also not sure where you get your data that loadmasters are losing proficiency due to the APEX function of the port. I’ve been attached to three operational C-17 flying units and that’s simply not the case. There are a lot of holes in your idea, won’t say it will never happen, but not in 20-30 years I’d say. I’d say the biggest hole is that your FPD program would have to be enlisted aircrew (in flight duties) which would require them to be assigned to an flying unit not a port Sq. Managing a cargo port is not and never will be in a C-17 or C-5 squadron doc statement. Lastly I find it hard to belive you don’t want to stir the port dawg – loadmaster pot by your headline as you stated. I think you know exactly what you’re doing.

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      2. There are certainly holes in the plan. I would need to spend considerably more time researching the functions to work out all the details. I certainly understand an FCC does not have inflight responsibilities, but using it as a model is meant to give us a starting point where they have already learned much in this refused. I was made aware of some of the inflight actions of a loadmaster and from what I understand it is significant in terms of knowledge of systems and emergency operations. Definitely things to be worked out. The data is coming from inquiries from AMC that there are complaints from the flying units about their ability to maintain proficiency. Not sure the frequency or urgency but it does make some sense. I’m not suggesting a flying Squadron manage a port, that would never work, but I disagree that they would need to be assigned to a flying unit. It could be managed elsewhere. The reality of this article is that I see either the APEX program growing larger or it being reduced drastically. It would be a shame to see it restricted. I wanted to provide an alternate that may not have been explored seriously. And yes, the headline is to grab attention so people will read the article, not to simply stir the pot.

        Thank you for reading the article and commenting. The conversation is what I hoping to create!

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      3. You point is not found. This person is an idiot. And spelling doesn’t matter you 3rd grade teacher. I’ve held both positions, this NONNER has no fucking clue what it takes to be a load. Go pound salt somewhere else.
        Love,
        Dean Goldberry

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  2. This whole thing is poorly thought out. Recreating the wheel for absolutely no reason. There are medical boards, tougher schools, and more responsibility than you are aware of. Why not just give apex personnel who want to take the next step a fast track into the existing afsc? This article is one more d&ck measuring put forward by a ground pounder. You want a flying port dawg? Cross train into loadmaster. Load Clear!

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    1. You could certainly fast-track them to the existing AFSC. But then we would have to replace them with another APEX member. The complaint was LMs are losing experience to the APEX program. No “D” measuring. Simply bringing another perspective to a new problem. It’s not recreating the wheel, but an attempt at augmenting a function that has self ID’d as losing experience. No ill will is intended to LMs, they are a cog in the machine like the rest of us. The Med board could very well kill this idea easily. Many Port Dawgs are too broken to be cleared. But what extra responsibilities do you refer to that are beyond the capabilities of a “ground pounder”?

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  3. I heavily disagree with this thought process. It makes it seem like you have no idea what the responsibilities of a Loadmaster are while in flight or the time/resources it would take to train someone up to be flight certified. The whole point of APEX is to allow the crew to have a shorter day with less time on the ground or to add another leg onto the tail end of the flight duty period in place of that loading time. Your suggestion of flight training port dawgs to do Loadmaster duties doesn’t add or detract to the purpose of APEX. In fact, it’s more of a cost for big blue to send the 2T2 to two different tech schools to accomplish the training you recommend. Not to mention that that 2T2 would be taking away from a 1A2’s training when they fly in place of a 1A2…
    The training problem that you’re proposing a solution for is not a product of the APEX program flourishing. It’s a manning/dwell time problem that the 1A2 career field has been suffering from for the better part of a decade. I hope the APEX program continues to succeed because there’s nothing better than coming home from a 7 day mission where you’ve only slept in a bed 3 times and the 2T2 says that he’s got the offload for you. The solution here is more Loadmaster bodies. This results in less demand per Loadmaster, meaning less time on the road and more time at home station rehacking currencies with the unit training department as needed.
    As previous commenters said, I believe you missed the mark on this one. I agree that your thinking was out of the box but you need a more practical perspective, which I hope to have provided. Cheers.

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    1. Great points and I certainly appreciate the reply. It seems odd that we talk about loadmaster demand being too high but the option to reduce that demand is dismissed immediately. It’s hard to see how we would hurt by taking time away and that there is too much demand. This may very well not be the answer, but what I think my previous discussion with LMs have failed to provide is the specific roles that we must not take any risk with. Perhaps we can pair a LM with a 2T2. Would that loss of capability be detrimental to the flight? Seems like the easy answer to everyone’s problems is more Manning, which will be on the way if the CSAF has his way, but I doubt the community receives will be sufficient. And the demand is not likely to go away. There must be something we can do.

      Thank you for the well put response it does provide great insight and much more to think about!

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  4. Zach, we will be having the GOL, Gathering Of Loadmasters (professional development for mil and civ loadmasters, active and retired) in Tacoma Wa this summer, it would be great if you could come and discuss this with all of us.

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  5. Mr. Davis,
    It’s not that I’m immediately dismissing your proposed option, we are both inline with the idea that less demand per LM would alleviate the pressure on the LM corp overall. It’s just from a practicality standpoint where I disagree with you. To put it in other words, think about if you’re running out of chocolate milk in the house but you have a bunch of regular milk you can just add some chocolate syrup to. Yeah it would be pretty much the same thing with the addition of the syrup. But you still overall have less milk in the house. If you want to have more chocolate milk but keep the same amount of regular milk around then next time you go to the grocery store go buy more chocolate milk instead of using your regular milk as a temporary fix. Now it’s not as simple as chocolate milk gets but in essence solves your identification of needing to add more people that can load the plane and fly with it – which is a loadmaster – with less manpower/resources it would take to train a 2T2 to do the same thing. Cheers.

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    1. We should solve more problems with chocolate milk analogies. I definitely agree that if you could add more LMs this would help reduce the burden on the LMs and provide more opportunity for them to focus on the other training they are most likely missing. I think the problem is you are never going to have enough LMs to achieve that goal. I could be wrong. But as we discuss this it sounds more like a capacity issue than a proficiency issue. Which is not what I addressed in the article or even knew was a problem. But if you require 100 loadmasters to successfully work the current set of mission but you are only able to get a max on 90. Why not dual-hat 15 2T2s and give them a specific mission set to work. Like the EUCOM channel mission. Yes, it’s better to have a LM but if you can’t get them isn’t it worth the extra costs to avoid overworking them? It could certainly be that the actual problem was not properly relayed to me. Enjoy!

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  6. Zach,

    It never hurts to chalk board new ideas. Judging from the article and responses, a public idea like this may better serve with more research ahead of time.

    Regardless, I don’t see where we could cut loadmaster manning. C-17 and C-5 aircraft require at least two loadmasters when you carry more than 40 (or 50?) passengers. As you know an FCC (or FPD in theory) has no responsibility inflight. To make them legal to perform inflight duties would require training on the order of an enlisted aircrew and thus negate the efficiency you seek.

    You say our LM force is overstretched, but at the same time losing proficiency. I have flown the C-17 for 11 years and never found loadmaster proficiency an issue across the unit (maybe there was a young LM with training requirements or evaluation requirements when they ask for something not to be APEXed?)

    APEX has it’s uses for the aerial port, but I don’t see it replacing our loadmasters in the current fleet of aircraft. Our mission isn’t as simple as Atlas or Omni.

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  7. Now so am a C-130 Load so I’ve never had APEX load my aircraft. But from my time at TACC I did come to appreciate it from a planning stand point, many loads on strat airlift take longer than almost anything I can put on a 130. So ultimately the APEX program already relieves the demand on LMs, which is the purpose of the program.

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  8. Mr. Davis,

    I can understand the attraction of this line of thinking however, I see this program as being less flexible as having a dedicated loadmaster. It has the porential to reduce the tactical capability to go to austere locations by having a FPD that makes the crew channel run only. That would not be something a TACC planner will take kindly to. The additional training becomes an issue and would make porters less flexable to PCS since they would have to be airframe specific. Loadmasters are not interchangable between airframes without attending the tech school of that airframe. i.e. C-17 loadmaster can become C-130 loadmasters but, they have to go to the C-130 Loadmaster Initial Qualification course(LIQ). Implementing FPD program might have the potential to alleviate the 1A2 workload but, at the potential higher training cost as well as force mobility cost in operarions and career field.

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  9. As a 605/2T2 that cross trained to 1A2, I can see both sides of the discussion, but like others have said, you are not taking into consideration the in-flight duties of a Loadmaster. In essence, what you are creating is a less-qualified Loadmaster. Not to disparage 2T2, some of which have loaded more aircraft than most Loadmasters, but if this program mimicked the FCC program, the flying Port Dawg would be below the line on the aeronautical orders (I forgot the exact term), meaning no duties in flight. This means no space-A pax, no checking cargo, no airdrop, no jettisoning, no performing emergency procedures, etc. Could you teach a Port Dawg how to do this? Yes, I am living proof, but if you do, you might as well just call them a Loadmaster. Even with all-cargo channel missions (something that has been declining over the years), TACC would lose flexibility. I’ve been on many channel missions that got re-fragged to pick up higher priority cargo, which may not fall within the purview of the APEX program. Good discussion though

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    1. The question is how much time would it take to teach an APEX qualified 2T2 to perform most of those tasks you mentioned. And how much money. Good point about TACC, something I had not thought about!

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      1. Zack,

        I have to ask if we have a fpd program who is going to identify when something is wrong with the cargo? To answer you question of how much it would cost to get an APEX qualified as a loadmaster. The answer is simple the same as it would cost to get a new loadmaster. They aren’t going to water down the training just because has some experience in one faset of the job. Pushing pallets is the easiest part of the job.

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      2. The FPD would identify cargo issues. And no, they wouldn’t water down the training, they would remove the portions of the training the APEX person already knows. What’s left over is what is trained. APEXers are much more than pallet pushers…

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  10. As a c130 loadmaster, this whole idea is funny to me. Strat aircraft literally arguing over how is going to load the aircraft. Come to the combat airlift world, where it’s a game of half inches. Never seen an Apex crew at a c130. So don’t compare yourself to loadmasters if you are going to pick and choose when you work based on how “easy” it is to push pallets in a c5.

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  11. I’m curious where you get your data that my loads are under manned? I’m also curious where you data comes from wrt their specific training/competencey loss? Now I agree maybe your FCC analogy may have some merit. This is an interesting discussion. Where Crew day is limited by load time you could have a 2T2 load the aircraft then fly on said aircraft with a qualified loadmaster. You would get 8 hours of uninterrupted rest much like an FCC/DCC/ACC. Then once the aircraft taxis to parking you take over down load duties and work the rest of the time uploading other aircraft or working duties at the port until you depart on the next aircraft. It’s worth some thought.

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    1. I don’t have data regarding LM manning. Someone else commented and stated that was a bigger problem than proficiency. My data on competency is from AMC. From what I’m told, they have received complaints from the field stating APEX is taking too many uploads from the LMs. I agree there is some benefit to your scenario if the crew day is limited. My article is a big idea that departs from the current construct so as expected it was not well received. But as the discussions happen perhaps it can take a different route that makes us a stronger more lethal Air Force. Thanks for the comment and for reading!

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  12. Well just let them go ahead and eliminate the LM and see how that works out for them. Anyone remember the non maintenance Airman entered the flight engineer domain!

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  13. Just like to ask if any of your discussions have taken into account the requirements for Combat Operations? The idea Might work in a day to day commercial type environment but there is a, I believe insurmountable, difference when you take Military Airlift and all of its responsibilities… Hurrcane relief is the most recently visible, but throw in any other humanitarian effort or Combat Surge Ops, and don’t get started on unusual weight and balance for never loaded items. With not knowing myself more about APEX (after my time as an FE and honorary LM) I saw what I think you’re missing. LM are part of the Mission Requirements document and their responsibilties are much farther reaching than you estimate in your article. I recommend you examine the actual training folder and CDCs of a 1A2, then talk to senior LMs about their compatriots. Only then might you have information to begin thinking about changes to any part of these AFSCs.

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