Revolutionizing Operations

  • Published
  • 143 AW

In the complex and demanding environment of military operations, the efficiency and safety of equipment is paramount. A recent focus has been on the C-130 aircraft ramp support system, commonly referred to as the “Milk Stool”. The Milk Stool’s current design, while effective, has presented significant physical risks to aircrew members operating the aircraft.

Weighing in at 85 pounds, the current adaptation has been a cause for concern. The weight and design of the stool exceeds the 70-pound standard lifting capacity for loadmasters and necessitates improper lifting techniques. This has led to increased debilitating injuries among aircrew members, driving the need for innovation. In response to this issue, innovative steps have been taken to develop a lighter alternative. The Lightweight Ramp Support program, initiated by an Air Force Academy project, has been a key driver in this area. A similar effort at Wright-Patterson AFB has also contributed significantly, with the JFWORX team designing and testing a lighter version of the milk stool, which has already seen positive feedback from the USMC and AFSOC.

Strategic action has been taken through releasing the design plans to C-130 units for local manufacturing. This approach will expedite the availability of the new system while also resulting in considerable cost savings of $1400 per unit. Moreover, the local production aligns with the needs of the U.S. Marine Corps, who require AMC approval. Despite a 1067 approval by the AMC Configuration Review Board in July 2020, the implementation has been slow due to funding and prioritization issues. However, with the expertise and tenacity of CMSgt Chad Gurnon, Rhode Island ANG’s C-130 Loadmaster Supervisor, the 143d Airlift Squadron was authorized to spearhead in-house production, a significant step towards broader adoption across the DOD.

During the first step, TSgt Nicole Rodrigues, of Bioenvironmental Engineering, highlighted risks associated with the current milk stool. The Recommended Weight Limit (RWL) was calculated to be 13.8 pounds, far below the current milk stool’s weight, further justifying the need for a lighter more ergonomic design. The adoption of the new lightweight design is expected to drastically improve operational efficiency during time-critical loading and unloading operations.

Additionally, the design’s weight reduction will save over $50,000 per year for the C-130H/J fleet in fuel costs. The successful redesign and implementation of the lightweight milk stool has been significantly aided by the efforts of MSgt Justin Farrell, 143d AFE, MSgt Pacheco, 143d AFE, MSgt Jack Marinelli, 143d MXS, TSgt Killian Robbins, 143d Sheet Metal, TSgt Mathew Fry, AMC Tactics, SrA Jack O'brien 143d AS, A1C Damon Brouillard, 143d MXS, and Capt. Steven Hoffman, 143d AS. The collaborative work in optimizing the design and production coordination, has been instrumental, leading to a 51.8 percent reduction in weight and a 97 percent reduction in manufacturing costs.

The initiative to redesign the C-130 milk stool represents a crucial advancement in Air Force operations, balancing operational efficiency with the health and safety of aircrew members. This project is a testament to the power of innovation and collaboration within the military, setting a precedent for future equipment design and manufacturing.