The glue that binds

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Nicole Keim
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Engines roared to life as the hum of the ‘birds’ flooded the tarmac, and three C-130J Super Hercules lined up to take flight during another annual training mission.


Although this forward training deployment was routine, many hours were spent planning to ensure things flowed smoothly. Staff Sgt. Toni Odom, 37th Airlift Squadron loadmaster and Thracian Summer 2016 ramp coordinator, was largely responsible for all logistics behind the FTD.


As one of two ramp coordinators assigned to Thracian Summer 2016, Odom ensured the team had all materials needed to accomplish the training.  While the crews were flying, she cleaned the operations building and planned the schedules for each day.  She also prepared rigging materials for the night crews and scheduled any required equipment to load the planes. Over the span of two weeks, she was responsible for three C-130Js and the 26 personnel that operated them.


“About a month before the FTD kicked off, I started working with the different agencies attending the training,” Odom said. “I collected information on cargo they wanted us to take.  It's funny because we usually only take three planes, so space is limited and every squadron submits crazy amounts of cargo.  It takes a lot of communication, with me working in the middle, (to bring everyone to an agreement to bring only necessities) so everyone and everything fits into 24 pallet positions.”


On the ground in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, she coordinated between host-nation officials and U.S. forces.


“That's tricky sometimes because of language barriers, the restrictions other countries have about working on weekends and the fact that we aren't allowed to operate their loading equipment,” Odom explained.  “In order to load and offload, I have to work with three different people - a translator and two drivers for each piece of equipment.”


Although it was her first time performing the duties of a ramp coordinator, things went successfully for Odom and the 37th AS team.


 “This was my chance to learn the workings of leadership on an FTD,” said Odom. “It's a tasking that is asked of every young staff sergeant as a way to give us experience outside the usual scope. I learned several lessons on this trip … It was eye opening because it helped me realize that the whole FTD hinged on cooperation between us and our gracious hosts.”


According to Senior Airman Dustin Dixon, ramp coordinator is a crucial position necessary for everyone to successfully do their jobs.


“’Rampco’ affects our job in a sense that they coordinate almost everything for us while in an FTD environment,” he said. “This coordination can span areas such as transportation, load plans, agency integration and various other components of the mission. Without our rampco’s expertise, we wouldn't be able to get the mission completed in a safe and efficient manner.”


Teamwork between all the agencies was paramount to the success of the mission, said Odom.


“Without maintenance to keep the planes healthy, aerial delivery to build our cargo delivery system bundles, joint airdrop inspector to inspect them, or my awesome mission commanders to glue us all together, we would not have had the success we did in breaking records for the most paratroopers dropped in a week for the Bulgarian military,” she added.


It takes many moving parts to accomplish the goal to fly, fight and win, and Ramstein Airmen play a huge part in that through teamwork on multinational exercises such as this.