Competition tests load crews’ skills

Event is part of the training process


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Air Force Staff Sgt. Vincent Sweet prepares an AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile to be loaded onto an F-22 Raptor during a weapons load competition Jan. 4. Sweet is a weapons load crew chief with the 90th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. The weapons load competitions test the units’ abilities and help them improve in the safety of a training environment. Sweet hails from Dalhart, Texas.

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett

As another year passes, two load crews competed for pride and a plaque in the 3rd Wing Load Crew of the Quarter competition Jan. 4. The objective of the load competition was to test the abilities and work ethic of two or more load crews from different fighter squadrons.

The 90th and 525th aircraft maintenance units train consistently to be proficient at their jobs and to compete in quarterly loading competitions. The instructors of the load crew members strive to make sure their crew members are trained to keep the mission running smoothly.

It is each member’s responsibility to know their job and their crewmembers’ jobs, so each person successfully completes the mission as a team starting day one, said Air Force Staff Sgt. Jordan Martin, from 525th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

“Not only knowing your job but also the next person’s job, that’s more of a challenge” he said.

When the load crews participate in monthly training, they are evaluated based on safety and reliability. Each crew member has to load a set amount of ammunition on the F-22 Raptors and other aircraft.

“You try to do it as fast as possible,” Martin said. “We give them easier and faster ways of doing things quicker.”

“The objective is to make things fast, smooth, and reliable.” he said.

There will be mistakes, Martin said. It is better major mistakes are caught during these training missions so as to keep the weapons from having malfunctions or becoming damaged. Their training is vital to eliminate all mistakes made while loading ammunition.

Martin said, a load crew member, the job requires knowledge of loading many different aircraft and ammunition. They have a duty to get the mission completed safely and correctly. “When you load ammunition on an aircraft, and when that aircraft comes back empty, that’s telling you that you have done your job.” he said.

The importance for the competition, Martin said, is, “to see them compete for bragging rights, so to speak, just so they can say they are the best of the best.”

In the quarterly competitions, the members have the opportunity to demonstrate what they do and how well they do it to their friends and family.

“You have a crowd watching, and you have many important people watching, it puts just a little bit extra pressure on them.” he said.

The Load Crew of the Quarter trophy was awarded to the 525th AMU: Senior Airman Philip Bennett, load crew chief, Senior Airman John Grimes, load crew member, and Airman 1st Class Ian Swartzwelder, load crew member. After each competition, the winning crew is awarded the trophy from Air Force Col. Dirk Smith, 3rd Wing commander, in honor of their achievement.

Though not all the load crews that compete win, they all have a chance at learning how to get better for next competition. The quarterly competition has been staged for more than 40 years, demanding the best of load crews.

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