Texas ANG unit participates in Luke's weapons loading competition

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Phil Fountain
  • 149th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A weapons loading team with the Texas Air National Guard participated in the Load Crew of the Quarter competition at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, April 8, 2016.

Tech. Sgts. Mark Nash and Federico Barrios and Senior Airman Robert Satter, aircraft armament systems technicians assigned to the 149th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, a subordinate unit of the 149th Fighter Wing, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas participated in the first quarter competition.

In addition to the 149th team, the competition included U.S. Air Force weapons loading teams from the Luke-based 61st, 309th and 310th aircraft maintenance units, subordinate units of the 56th Fighter Wing.

"We were invited by the 56th Fighter Wing's loading standardization section to perform in a 'loadeo' competition," said Chief Master Sgt. Darin S. LaCour, the wing weapons manager for the 149th. "A three-member crew competed against the active duty weapons loaders for a load crew competition."

"When we came here and introduced ourselves to them, they said, 'hey, we have a competition, would you like to join?" LaCour said. "We jumped at the chance and said 'absolutely, we'll be ready.'"

The 149th is currently conducting their F-16 Fighting Falcon operations at Luke, near Phoenix, while San Antonio's Kelly Field undergoes repairs, which has temporarily limited the fighter training unit's flight operations in the Alamo City.

"It builds camaraderie between the crews, out there," said Master Sgt. Ian Snowsill, the weapons standardization superintendent for the 56th Maintenance Group. "It's a competition, its bragging rights."

The timed competition required the teams to load two inert AIM-120, advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles onto on their unit's aircraft, Snowsill said. Additionally, there was a tool kit inventory and inspection by quality assurance from the 56th. There was also an individual written examination.

The competition brought out the Texas unit's pride, complete with the Lone Star State's flag on display and members from across the wing cheering on the weapons load crew.

"You definitely saw the pride that was in our unit," Barrios said. "Being in the competition, you're so focused on the task at hand. But, when you've got people out there cheering that loud, you can't help but hear."

"It motivates you," Barrios said. "You want to go faster, you want to be more proficient, because you know you've got people behind you rooting you on."

In addition to fellow weapons loaders, the 149th had airmen from across the wing watching the loaders compete.

"It's not only good for loaders, but for the wing, in general," LaCour said. "From the crew chiefs - to show off their jets and how clean we keep them - to the loaders showing off their skillsets and their speed and accuracy, to the [aerospace ground equipment] guys showing off their equipment and how quickly and well they work, to the operations guys coming out and seeing what we do every day."

"This machine wouldn't work without everyone involved," LaCour said. "The loaders were highlighted today, but it takes everybody."

As a career field, weapons load crews are responsible for ensuring their unit's primary assigned aircraft are properly loaded with munitions and countermeasures to meet the pilot's mission and contingency requirements, LaCour said. Competitions like this reinforce the importance of the loader's role in the Air Force mission.

"The time-standard they used is the standard across the U.S. Air Force," LaCour said. "It shows the load crews where they're at, as far as their time standards. It's a big morale booster for everyone involved."

LaCour was pleased with his weapons loaders' performance.

"They did an outstanding job representing the Texas Air National Guard and the Air Force, in general," LaCour said.