Dispatch from the Front: Bullets to beans

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber R. Kelly-Herard
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
An Air Reserve Technician from the 729th Airlift Squadron at March Air Reserve Base, Calif., says he has the best job in the Air Force that an enlisted person can have.
Tech. Sgt. Dennis Cardova is a C-17 loadmaster.

"I am an enabler," said the Whittier, Calif., native. "I move cargo forward so the job can get done at forward locations."

"My job is to ensure the upload and download of cargo and passengers to make sure that they both remain safe in flight," he continued.

As a C-17 loadmaster, Sergeant Cardova is responsible for several types of cargo that can be carried on his aircraft.

"From bullets to beans is what we say," he said. "Whether it's ammunition or food, if they need it we take it."

In addition to enabling the ground mission, Sergeant Cardova said the best part of job is the places he gets to see.

"It's been an eye-opening experience," he said. "I came in the Air Force in the 1980s, so I never thought I would get to step foot on a former Soviet Union base or get to see Rome."
"Rome is probably the most exciting place I have been," he continued. "My crew and I went to Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy and we had four days off, which is rare in itself, so we decided to visit Rome."

"I've also been all over Europe and South America, I was lucky to visit Australia and Egypt and of course, the bread and butter, Iraq and Afghanistan," he added. "I just haven't been to Antarctica."

Sergeant Cardova originally joined the Air Force as a security forces member but in 2004 he cross-trained to become a C-141 loadmaster. Five months later, he trained to be a loadmaster for the C-17 since the C-141 was on its way to retirement.

"Training was tough because there was a lot of information to take in during a short time, but I dug my heels in and got my wings," said Sergeant Cardova. "The C-17 curriculum was easier though since I was learning some of it for the second time."

The hardest part, the sergeant feels, is ensuring weight and balance of the cargo in the aircraft.

"I have place cargo in a way that the tail end doesn't drag and the nose doesn't lift up," he said.

Despite going through training to become a loadmaster, Sergeant Cardova still has to remain up to date with his skills.

"Currency checks are done daily and I am also responsible for computer-based training quarterly and a check ride every 14 months," said the sergeant. "And you never know when you will get a surprise inspection."

"It's easy to get complacent, but being in the air allows for plenty of time to read my training manual," he said. "I stay on top of my game."