Teamwork, aircraft armament style

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Tom Sooter, Master Sgt. Tyler Foster, Master Sgt. Brandon Kooyers and Master Sgt. Billy Swartzel
  • 49th Wing Weapons manager
We would like to take a moment and give you a little insight about an event that is one of the highlights of being in the 2W1X1 career field -- a loading competition or load comp.

For weapons personnel, the load comp provides the opportunity to display their warfighting skills and unveils the best weapons load crew for a particular quarter during the year.

All crews start with 6,000 points and points are awarded during each phase of the competition -- written examination, tool kit inspection and a uniform inspection. Points are deducted for safety violations and technical order errors.

Teamwork plays a major role in total points and surprisingly enough, speed doesn't always factor in to which load crew comes out on top. It takes teamwork to get the job done correctly, each and every time.

I'm very proud of the weapons folks assigned to Holloman and would like to highlight their vital responsibilities at this base. There are basically three tasks a weapons loader performs: munitions loading, flightline maintenance on weapons equipment and armament maintenance.

Each member of a load crew has their own set of tasks to carry out and work in teams of three or four, depending on the aircraft. During weapons loading the load crew chief, usually an NCO, has the checklist and oversees the entire loading process. If anything requires further attention, the other team members will go to this individual.

The other members on the load crew are also known as the "number two" and "number three" members. The number two person is responsible for preparing the aircraft weapons stations onto which munitions will be loaded. Additionally, the two person is responsible for the tool kit inventory prior to and after the weapons loading operation.

The number three person is responsible for making sure munitions are safe and match mission requirements. They also will drive an MJ-1, known as a bomb lift truck, to transport a 500 to 2,000 pound weapon for attachment onto an aircraft.

After an aircraft is configured for a combat or training mission, the loaders will perform final checks and remove weapons related safety pins before the aircraft is cleared for take-off.

Not all weapons loaders are outside loading munitions or performing flightline maintenance. Some work in the back shop, known as the Armament Flight, which is responsible for performing inspections and maintenance on weapons associated equipment. Armament Flight personnel perform scheduled maintenance on anything a bomb, missile or ammunition comes into contact with. Typical inspections are performed during a 90-day, annual, biannual, or 18-month interval to maintain serviceability.

In addition to working equipment in the section, there are occasions when Armament Flight technicians render assistance on the flightline. During these circumstances, Armament Flight personnel will help the weapons load crews with troubleshooting malfunctioning equipment on the aircraft.

Bottom line: a mission dependent on how effectively a weapon can be employed by aircrews primarily rests with the overall loader responsibilities, whether on the flightline, or during back shop maintenance. It takes total effort by all -- teamwork!

During deployments or Temporary Duty exercises, a weapons loader gets a sense of accomplishment and actually sees what they've been practicing for at home-station. When you hear the jet take off, you feel a sense of importance. When you see that afterburner light up, you know the jet is armed with your weapons and knowing you did your job precisely gives you a great feeling. When you see an aircraft come back with no bombs or missiles, you know for certain you've achieved the hallmark of being a weapons loader.

Simply put, there's no room for weak links in the weapons realm. It takes a team working together to do the job right!