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AIR FORCE September 17, 2009
For more than six years,
C-130s from 37SQN have
been the backbone in sup-
porting ADF personnel
on the ground in Iraq and
Afghanistan. CPL Andrew
Hetherington was a passen-
ger on a Hercules flight into
Afghanistan, which stopped
at Australia's main base at
Tarin Kowt on its way to
Kandahar. "During the eight
hours I spent with the crew,
I witnessed a high level of
professionalism and enthu-
siasm, and the mentally
draining and dangerous
work they carry out each
and every time they fly."
LOADMASTER SGT Damen
Edwards had been flying into
Afghanistan for just over a
month but was already drawing
immense satisfaction from his role.
He looked after coalition troops and
cargo while they were aboard the air-
"We recently did an Aero Medical
Evacuation (AME) where we had a
soldier on board who was injured. We
transported him to somewhere he could
receive further treatment," SGT Edwards
"The best part of it was we could
help him and get him home safely. It
feels pretty good to be helping the guys
on the ground. We usually do three-day
missions and we enjoy providing the end
product, by getting the cargo to the guys
who need it."
On my trip, the aircraft was carry-
ing passengers and a mixture of cargo,
including ammunition, rations and sev-
eral bags of mail from Australia.
"The mail is pretty good for morale
for the guys here and we pretty much
carry anything and everything we need
to get to them," SGT Edwards, one of
two loadmasters aboard, said.
Days for the aircrew are long and for
loadmasters a typical day of a mission
usually begins two hours before take-off.
"We make sure our personal kit is
ready and pre-flight the aircraft from
nose to tail," SGT Edwards said.
"We check our weapons, survival
vests and body armour in case some-
thing does go wrong and we have to use
our survival training.
"We also supervise the loading of
cargo to ensure it is done in a safe man-
ner and it's balanced within the aircraft
to a certain percentage."
During my flight the crew worked
a total of 14 hours with eight hours in
All in a day's work
SGT Edwards's role was to ensure
the cargo was secure and the passen-
gers and crew were both safe and looked
after. This involved feeding the pilots,
the remainder of the aircrew and the
The approach into Tarin Kowt was
in total darkness, with SGT Edwards
and the rest of the crew donning body
armour, helmets and Night Vision
Goggles. Both loadmasters were
on constant lookout for ground fire,
which could come in the form of either
small arms, or at worst, Surface to Air
We landed and SGT Edwards and
his colleagues quickly moved about the
aircraft preparing the cargo to be off-
loaded. Engines continued to run as the
back ramp opened and Air Load Team
members swarmed aboard checking the
cargo and calling forward the fork lift.
Once the cargo was unloaded, the
exiting passengers disembarked, with
body armour, helmets on and weapons
at hand. More passengers were taken on
board before we took off.
We finally landed at Kandahar in the
middle of the night and I thanked SGT
Edwards for his considerate care and
I walked to the bus with body armour
and helmet, feeling exhausted. I could
only imagine how the C-130 crew must
have felt. Their day would not finish for
at least another half hour.
With 10 hours rest, they would have
to get up and do it all again.
CHECK: Loadmaster SGT Damen Edwards checks the aileron boost pack before take-off. Photos: CPL Andrew Hetherington
The 37SQN C-
130 is refuelled
before its mission to
the cabin of
as it leaves
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