JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
In-service recruiters from the 352nd Recruiting Squadron participated in a joint Total Force helicopter sling load exercise Jan. 26-27 to enhance their situational awareness of the Air Force Reserve and broaden their understanding of the aerial transportation career field.
The recruiters teamed with Air Force Reserve component personnel from the 26th Aerial Port Squadron and Texas Army National Guard Soldiers from Company C, 2nd Battalion, 149th Aviation Regiment, for the heliborne transport of over 26,000 pounds of cargo and personnel.
The two-day exercise involved rigging cargo loads, establishing a helicopter landing zone with four touch-down points and having two-person teams attach the loads to a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
Master Sgt. Dawnmosha S. Williams, 352nd Recruiting Squadron in-service recruiter-supervisor, organized her unit’s participation to get the team out in the field and stay knowledgeable on Air Force Reserve job opportunities and activities.
“We want people to understand that recruiting is not just a desk job and that we’re out there getting down and dirty with everyone else,” she said the squadron’s participation in the exercise.
Technical Sgt. Brasil A. Segura, Air Force Reserve line recruiter, 352nd Recruiting Squadron, described that with each iteration, the two-person hook-up team would stand by their load as the Black Hawk helicopter approached. The bracer held their teammate against the rotor wash and gave adjustment advice as the hook-up person waited for the opportunity to attach the load to the cargo hook of the aircraft hovering just five feet over them.
The team would then verify the secure hookup, dash to their safety point and give a thumbs up to the Army aircrew to confirm their task completion.
The experience was educational for those participating.
“My background is Security Forces, and I honestly did not know aerial transportation does this kind of up-close work with aircraft,” Segura said. “What they do is pretty cool and is 100 percent part of the mission -- to make sure the aircrews can do what they need to do to transport the cargo.
“Part of my job is to promote aerial transportation as a career choice,” she said. “Now I have a better understanding of what ‘Port Dawgs’ do, and I can represent that to young applicants.
“Now, I also understand why folks with an ASVAB score of 99 are a match for the 2T2 career field,” Segura said. “With the rigging, inspection, and loading procedures, aerial transportation is an attention-to-detail job that you cannot mess up. I saw all of the precautions out there on the LZ (landing zone) -- if something is not strapped down right, or tied down correctly, or the weight is a little off, it could throw the load off balance and put the load, the aircraft, or people on the ground at risk.
Segura said she has been able to place two applicants in the career field since the exercise because she was able to show them pictures and really describe the career field based on personal experience with the 26th APS.
Another 352nd in-service recruiter offered his perspective.
“I come from an aircrew background as a loadmaster on C-130s. This exercise was really interesting for me because I was able to see how an Army rotary-wing unit differs from an Air Force fixed-wing unit,” said Master Sgt. Zachary R. Nusbaum. “This was a new experience, seeing the differences in rigging a load for different types of airframes and types of movements. It was impressive to see the versatility of the equipment we have.”
Nusbaum said the exercise really benefitted him as a recruiter.
“It’s important to be able to identify with different Air Force Specialty Codes, what each job does and how that job relates to the overall mission and mission effectiveness,” he said. “It’s nice to show people that we’re not just recruiters behind a desk, we’re out here doing the same thing you do. Our participation also shows that recruiters really do care about our applicants.
“We are the gateway when applicants enter the Air Force, and it’s important for them to understand that we are still in the field so we understand the jobs they applying for,” said Williams, summarizing the importance of recruiters staying engaged at the field level. “As recruiters, we stay engaged with the field to actively know what they’re doing so we can truly understand what we are asking applicants to obligate themselves to do.”
This is important for today’s recruiters, because the recruiting process eventually comes full circle.
“Our mission is to recruit qualified Airmen to fill the mission of the Air Force Reserve,” Williams said. “There were actually two Airmen in the 26th Aerial Port Squadron on that helicopter landing zone that day who we had recruited from the JBSA-Lackland Air Force Reserve recruiting flight. They had recently graduated from technical school and now, we were out there alongside them accomplishing the mission. It was amazing!”