Staff Sgt. Michael Turner has been to every continent but Antarctica and has supported the war on terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the Middle East. And he's only been a C-5 loadmaster for seven years.

"It doesn't take long for a loadmaster to travel all over the world," said Turner, an instructor with the Enlisted Aircrew Undergraduate Training Course, part of the Career Enlisted Aviator Center of Excellence at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. "We begin traveling even while we are in training."

Airmen are qualified loadmasters coming out of loadmaster schools at Little Rock AFB, Ark. (for C-130s), and Altus AFB, Okla. (for C-5s and C-17s), said Master Sgt. Kelsey Gunn, a 17-year veteran C-130E/H loadmaster and an instructor at the enlisted aircrew course. But it's smart business to team them up with a more experienced loadmaster when in the field, he said.

"School can't possibly cover every single scenario," Gunn said. "But an experienced loadmaster has pretty much seen and done it all. So they can really guide the newcomers to ensure they do things right the first time and follow rules and checklists."

Having these mentors is crucial to maintaining the safety of the aircrew, passengers and plane, Gunn said.

"An improperly tied down piece of equipment is dangerous," he explained. "If the load comes lose and you have passengers on board, it can severely injure or even kill somebody."

He also said loadmasters have to be very aware of an aircraft's weight limits.

"We fly out of a lot of short take-off fields, so you need to ensure the aircraft is within its limits and can take off when it's supposed to on a short field," Gunn said. "Otherwise you could end up in the side of a mountain."

With students entering real-world missions quickly and some even traveling to nearly 50 countries in less than a year, the instructors are glad their education starts at the Career Enlisted Aviator Center of Excellence ... But they are equally as happy that their training doesn't stop there.

-- Tim Barela