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Air transportation careers in demand at McChord

Story by
Jake Chappelle
446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

MCCHORD FIELDWash. --Telling an Air Force Reserve air transportation specialist to "take a load off" might result in a response unorthodox from an outsider, because that's what they do - literally.

Airman 1st Class Will Akers, 86th Aerial Port Squadron cargo specialist, is one of many Citizen Airmen trained to manage cargo and passengers on aircraft.

These jacks of all trades are hybrids of their counterparts in the civilian world by fusing cargo shipping representative, customer service agent, shipping clerk, baggage receiving attendant and baggage handling person into the air transportation professional.

Akers, who's working fulltime with his squadron to complete his hands-on training, said he enjoys his job because he feels it makes a difference.

"I wanted to do something, not just sit around" he said. "I wanted to do work that I felt would make a difference - loading cargo, operating a forklift, or just helping people in general."

Since Akers, of Mill Creek, didn't have military experience before joining the 86th APS, he followed the beginner pipeline of Basic Military Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas and the basic air transportation course at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

"It (was a lot of classroom work the three weeks," he said. "Once you learn the basics you learn the basics of the C-17, C-130, how to operate equipment, and tie down cargo."

Tech. Sgt. Sarah Ourso is also new to the career field, but not to the Air Force. She said she joined the aerial port because running heavy equipment is in her family lineage.

"I was active duty for 10.5 years," said the Yakima native. "We come from a long line of farmers and ranchers, so this is right up the alley with the loaders and machinery. I'm not really built for an office job."

150327-F-JB957-020Ourso went through the prior-service training pipeline, which consisted of a strictly practical approach of a computer-based training series, and a hands-on school at Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia.

"I did my [career development course] before going to the course," she said. "You get there and the groundwork is already laid [out], so you go right into learning the equipment and vehicles."

To qualify for Air Transportation, new applicants need to take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery entrance exam and score at least 47 in mechanical and 28 in administrative. Candidates also have to be qualified to operate government vehicles.

The 86th APS and it's mirror unit, the 36th Aerial Port Squadron have more than 20 slots to fill, said Tech. Sgt. Orlando Andujar, 446th Airlift Wing line recruiter, said more than 20 slots are available between the 86th APS and its mirror unit, the 36th Aerial Port Squadron. There's also room for upward mobility in these units, and non-prior service applicants are entitled a $15,000 sign-on bonus.

Candidates should contact the 446th Airlift Wing Recruiting Office at 253-982-9078 to get started with a career in the Air Force Reserve, or to gain more information.