In June of 2006, the Royal Australian Air Force sent their first group of airmen to Altus Air Force Base for pilot and loadmaster training on the C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet. Over 70 Aussie airmen have come to Altus for training since. But on Saturday Oct. 5, the last of the airmen from “down under” will be heading home.
Australian Air Force Warrant Officer Wayne Silverman and Sergeant Peter Clark have spent the last seven of eight weeks engaged in initial airdrop training to release cargo on parachutes out of the back of the C-17 during flight.In 2011, Silverman was in Altus in for three months for his initial loadmaster training, making this his second visit here. On their weekends they have visited parts of Oklahoma and Kansas, and Dallas, Texas. They’ve also enjoyed the Great Plains Stampede Rodeo.
“On some weekends we’d get in the car and go to some little town somewhere and have something to eat and come back, so we get to experience the culture,” Clark said. “We’ll miss the people the most. They are very friendly,” Silverman joined in. “Everyone loves to just talk to you, it doesn’t matter where we go. Here, Oklahoma City, Dallas, Kansas…,” Clark said.
“This is our local coffee joint,” Clark said of Confectionately Your’s. “Every morning we come here and study, and just drop by.” The two loadmasters studied operation materials stored on their Apple iPads. “Been here everyday for five weeks,” Silverman added.
“They’re paying my electric bill,” Donald Jouett joked, owner of the popular coffee and pastry shop where many pilots, Air Force personnel, and local patrons frequently visit.
Donald remembers the first pilots and loadmasters that hung out at the shop back in 2006 who shared their stories and good conversation. “Since we collect patches, they’ve all left their Australian patches,” he said. Some have even left their Australian Air Force caps to Donald and Doris Jouett. Anyone who comes into Confectionately Your’s will see military hats and patches from every era and from airmen all over the world.
“We get so many people from all around the world, they have signed the book,” Donald said. Donald has a unique World Atlas book where airmen from foreign nations sign their name and pinpoint their hometown on the map, adding to the collection of world visitors that have shared great memories over a few rounds of coffee. In 2006, the first group spent three days creating the “Confectionately Down Under” hot beverage, available on the menu.
Silverman and Clark will be flying out of Oklahoma City, landing in Brisbane, Queensland, to their sunny beaches, their beloved James Boags Australian beer (not available in the U.S.), and their Air Force’s C-17’s. “We’ve got six,” Silverman said. Silverman explained that the Royal Australian Air Force sent airmen to Altus for pilot and loadmaster training up until 2009, when they built their own flight simulators. They have sent airmen for loadmaster training up until now, as Boeing Co. announced last week their plans to end production of the C-17 Globemaster III.
Next time the last of the Australian loadmasters will be in the U.S., will be to pick up equipment, or to assist in U.S. operations.