All Women Drop Zone Team

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Austen R. Adriaens
  • 133rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

St. Paul, Minn. – On March 16, the first all-female drop zone team recovered 11,109 pounds of cargo consisting of heavy platforms and bundles from Camp Ripley, Minn. U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Heather Boutin, Air Transportation Specialists, 133rd Air Transportation Function (ATF), led the team with four other female airmen. 

“I am excited that I got to share this experience with our younger airmen and that it coincided with Women’s History Month,” said Boutin. “I’ve been waiting to do it for three years!”

In the 50-year history of the ATF, there has not been a full-time female qualified on both semi-truck and rigger qualified to facilitate an all-female drop zone team. For this to occur, two things needed to happen. First, an individual qualified and trained to rig cargo parachutes. Second, the individual needs to be qualified to drive a semi-truck. Boutin gained the second qualification at the end of February, which allowed her to drive the semi-truck to the drop zone without a vehicle trainer. She immediately thought of all her female airmen and offered them the opportunity to come out and make history. 

“Female airmen make up 41% of the [ATF] right now, which is crazy,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Katie Braunwarth. “The [ATF] has been [mostly] men for most of the 50-years. It’s cool to see that we showed up, we can, we do, and we succeed every time. We are just as strong, intelligent, and capable as our male counterparts.” 

Air Transportation specialists have a demanding career field, and it can be challenging. Their responsibilities range from processing passengers and building cargo, to build the heavy platforms and bundles which 109th Airlift Squadron used on this day. It doesn’t matter the weather conditions; ATF airmen are recovering the equipment in rain, shine, sleet, snow, and freezing temperatures. 

The biggest obstacle the team had was the weather, recalls Boutin. The drop zone fields were wet and muddy. The day drop bundles to recover were two Low-Cost Low Altitude bundles, 350 pounds each, and two Joint Precision Air Drop System, 822 pounds each.

 “It was great to be a female role model for the younger airmen,” said Boutin. “As a newly promoted senior non-commissioned officer, helping to mentor and provide feedback to them is extremely rewarding. It was a multifaceted experience doing something for the first time as an all-female crew.”