HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah – Reservists in the 67th Aerial Port Squadron were fortunate to have the 336th Air Refueling Squadron from March Air Reserve Base, California, arrive here with a KC-135R for a cargo training exercise Feb. 5, 2022.
“We call this ‘reservists supporting reservists,’” said Tech. Sgt. Catherine Roberts, boom operator with the 336th ARS. “We provide the aircraft for other Reserve units to practice loading and offloading cargo for training.”
While not an official program, it provides Reserve squadrons the opportunity to communicate their training needs and receive assistance with refueling, cargo loads and unloads, and other mission-specific training.
“When we get chances like this to work with other bases and aircrews, we take full advantage of it,” said Master Sgt. Chris Montoya, ramp training manager with the 67th APS. “It allows us to stay proficient in our jobs and be ready to go when we end up down range.”
The 67th APS makes an effort to get every airframe to participate in trainings with them at least once a quarter. Lately they’ve been fortunate to train on one aircraft a month. The unique configuration of the KC-135 and its inability to hold the cargo the 67th generally works with presented a new training opportunity – the transportation of human remains.
“This is very different from loading regular cargo,” Montoya said. “When we heard that no one here had this experience, we put the training together.”
Many of the squadron members had never transported human remains, because only certain bases handle this kind of transport. However, there are occasions where human remains will pass through other bases, such as when they’re coming from overseas.
“If this is the case, we need to be prepared and understand how to handle the situation,” Montoya said.
Despite the solemnness, the Airmen understand the necessity and importance of this type of training. The handling must be dignified, respectful, and give fallen service members the honor they deserve during their final ride home.
“I’ve never trained on this before and there isn’t much of it in the book we can go by,” Roberts said. “Some people here have first-hand experience so we’re able to get their input. This is just as helpful for us as it is them.”