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Rhinos lead the charge as masters of strategic airlift

Lt. Col. Bill Barton, 89th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot, goes through his check list in preparation for takeoff.

Lt. Col. Bill Barton, 89th Airlift Squadron C-17 pilot, goes through his check list in preparation for takeoff. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Patrick O'Reilly)

Master Sgt. Lorenzo Law, 89th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, prepares a 445th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III on the ground at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, for loading cargo and Airmen for transport to Tampa, Florida, to support Hurricane Irma relief efforts September 12, 2017

Master Sgt. Lorenzo Law, 89th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, prepares a 445th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III on the ground at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, for loading cargo and Airmen for transport to Tampa, Florida, to support Hurricane Irma relief efforts September 12, 2017. The personnel travelling are members of the 621st Contingency Response Team based out of McGuire. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Patrick O'Reilly)

Chief Master Sgt. Jason LeMaster, 89th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, spots a forklift being loaded into the cargo area of a 445th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Biggs Army Field in El Paso, Texas, for transport to aid in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts Aug. 30, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Patrick O'Reilly)

Chief Master Sgt. Jason LeMaster, 89th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, spots a forklift being loaded into the cargo area of a 445th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at Biggs Army Field in El Paso, Texas, for transport to aid in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts Aug. 30, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Patrick O'Reilly)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

When mission critical equipment needs to get downrange, hurricanes ravage the southeast, or injured service members are ready for transport out of the battlefield, the 89th Airlift Squadron doesn’t hesitate.

 

“We consider ourselves an extended family of Citizen Airmen who are all committed to serving a greater cause and becoming better versions of ourselves,” said Lt. Col. Brian M. Quinn, squadron commander.

 

The 89th Airlift Squadron includes 65 pilots, 47 loadmasters and nine squadron aviation resource management personnel, who manage aviation risk and ensure the highest standards of safety.

 

“We are one part of a larger team. For example, maintenance provides the tails and we provide the crews,” he said.

 

The squadron completed nearly 5,000 flight hours in 2017, delivering 20 million pounds of cargo.

 

During unit training assemblies, they train in the air with night vision goggles, and on aerial refueling operations in partnership with active duty, guard and reserve units from neighboring communities like Indiana and Tennessee.

 

“We have to be able to operate in every geographic combatant command,” Quinn said. “We are ready, when asked, to support any and everything you see on the news.”

 

Some traditional reservists in the 89th AS work up to 200 days a year in support of the Air Force mission. When not on duty, squadron members work as airline pilots, engineers, school teachers, first responders and other careers.

 

“Our diverse background is indicative of our squadron’s culture of service,” Quinn said. “We have no shortage of volunteers when crisis occurs.”

 

A Cleveland resident, Tech. Sgt. Jay Benedict spent five years in the 445th Civil Engineer Squadron before becoming a loadmaster in the 89th AS. He now trains with the flying squadron two or three weekends each month and has visited 40 countries.

 

“I’m on my third civilian job in five years because it’s such a big commitment,” Benedict said.

 

He explained that one of his duty requirements is flying at least once every 60 days. He’s now completed 10 years of uniformed service and intends to retire.

 

“This squadron is intense,” added Benedict. “It’s a lot of work for being a reservist, but it’s worth it.”

 

When he assumed command in September, Quinn outlined three priorities for the squadron, one of which is developing Airmen who choose to stay.

 

“Most of our folks stick around beyond the 20 years and continue choosing to serve until they are forced to retire,” he explained. “This squadron is made up of people who want to be here and provide world-class strategic airlift, and that’s the bottom line.”