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Last loadmaster grad
Chief Master Sgt. Jim Tavernese, chief loadmaster of the Air Force Reserve’s 95th Airlift Squadron at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., pins loadmaster wings onto Staff Sgt. Amie Starcher’s uniform. Sergeant Starcher is the last Air Force student to graduate from the Air National Guard’s Enlisted Aircrew Academic School. The school, run by the Arkansas ANG’s 189th Airlift Wing, will continue to train Marines while Air Force students will be taught at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Master Sgt. Bob Oldham)
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Last Air Force student graduates from Guard loadmaster school

Posted 7/14/2008   Updated 7/14/2008 Email story   Print story


by Master Sgt. Bob Oldham
189th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

7/14/2008 - LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- Student No. 4181, Air Force Reserve Staff Sgt. Amie Starcher of the 95th Airlift Squadron, Pope Air Force Base, N.C., walked up on stage, received her wings, saluted smartly and was the last Air Force loadmaster or flight engineer to graduate July 11 from the Air National Guard's Enlisted Aircrew Academic School.

Over the last 20 years, the school has trained 4,182 entry-level loadmasters and flight engineers, but its student flow from the Air Force has dried up due to the establishment of an enlisted aircrew center of excellence at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

"We say that she's No. 4181, but all of our students have always been more than a number," said Col. Jim Summers, 189th Airlift Wing commander. "Our instructors at the school cared about every student that ever walked through the doors. Our students received individual attention from Day 1. It's unfortunate for us that the Air Force decided to establish the COE in San Antonio. As always, we salute smartly, just as she did on stage, and press on."

The Air Force's vision to establish the COE in 2002 was to bring all enlisted aviators trained at various locations around the United States under one roof - a cost-savings measure in a time of tighter budgets. Two years ago, some classes began at Lackland.

The school here was scheduled to train its final students last year, but received a last-minute reprieve when the Air Force discovered it couldn't train its quota of students. The school trained 145 loadmasters and flight engineers in fiscal year 2008, the last of which received their wings July 11.

Over the years, the school has trained students from the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard and numerous allied nations. The first year the school was at Little Rock, the staff trained 26 flight engineers and loadmasters. The school reached its peak in 2004, training 413 students.

Looking to the future, the school's cadre is currently working on an Air National Guard-directed training syllabus for a career enlisted manager's course and a group superintendent's course, both of which will be designed specifically for enlisted aviators.

Additionally, at the request of the Marine Corps, the staff will train six entry-level loadmaster classes in fiscal year 2009, which is expected to be 40-60 students.

To mark the final Air Force student graduation, the school held a special ceremony after the graduation to recognize those who helped make the school a success.

After the ceremony, attendees drove to the base lake for a barbecue picnic and a re-telling of stories from years past.

The school originated in 1969 and was initially in the Minnesota Air National Guard. In 1988, it was relocated here, two years after the 189th Airlift Wing converted from KC-135 tanker aircraft to C-130 cargo aircraft, according to Chief Master Sgt. Gary Wynn, the enlisted aircrew training manager.

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