Quarterly bomb loading ignites competitive spirit
KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Weapons load crew members representing two aircraft maintenance units at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea and an expeditionary aircraft maintenance unit from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, contended for the 'best of the best' title, March 29, 2013.
Weapons load crews from the 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's 35th and 80th AMU, and the 4th EAMU engaged in a quarterly morale event to demonstrate their abilities and to claim the ultimate prize - bragging rights.
"The purpose of the event was to validate our weapons load crews," said Tech. Sgt. Toni Sanchez, 8th Maintenance Group loading standardization team chief. "The weapons loading competition was to see which team was the 'best of the best' for the first quarter of 2013."
The weapons load crew comprised of a team chief, a two-man and the three-man. Each team started with 2,000 points, and depending on how they performed in several separate events, points were added or taken away. Scores from a 100 point written test, members dress and appearance and a composite tool kit inspection (all tools were present and properly marked,) were tracked, and any discrepancies were documented.
During the bomb loading portion, each team had 40 minutes to load five AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles and one AIM-9X Sidewinder. Teams earned five points per minute for completing the load in less time, or it was deducted for ever minute past the standard.
For Airman 1st Class Jonathan Mahlan, 8th AMXS, 35th AMU weapons load crew two-man, the competition was the epitome of his career field. It was the best chance for his crew to show off their skills, attention to detail, and drive to perform safely and effectively under pressure.
"My duties were to make sure all the missile launchers were safe, functional and properly configured to interface with the specific munitions we were given to load," Mahlan said. "I also knew I had to move quickly but with precision. During the load I kept telling myself, 'If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right the first time."
Speed was the key to winning the loading competition, but inspectors evaluated crew members on their safety and reliability as well.
"We wanted to make sure they were loading safely," Sanchez said. "We also checked them for technical proficiency and reliabilities. If they missed anything major that could be reliable to the aircraft, flier, munitions or the base's operation, then we docked them."
While the competition gave weapons load crew members a chance to prove how good they were, Sanchez said it was a great way for the crews to show their capabilities as well.
"It showed our wing we had weapons crews who were 'ready to fight tonight," she said. "They are always ready to go, so this was their opportunity to showcase their talents other than during an Operational Readiness Exercises or Operational Readiness Inspections."
For Mahlan, having a chance to compete was a great honor, and the experience was the most important part of it all. Winning was just the icing on the cake, for the first time bomb load competitor.
"Winning the load competition has given me much more pride and confidence in my loading skills than I knew I could have, it sort of raised a personal ceiling of accomplishments," Mahlan said. "I believe it also speaks very highly of the training and dedication that my shop and AMU ensured we received."
Winners of the 1st Quarterly Load Crew Competition were the 8th AMXS, 35th AMU weapons load crew members: Staff Sgt. Gregory Harrison, team chief; Senior Airman Jade Call, three-man and Airman 1st Class Jonathan Mahlan, two-man.