27th SOMXG: Weapons troops showcase skill
By Staff Sgt. Alex Mercer, 27th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 07, 2015
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Who are the baddest warriors on this base? Who puts the boom in the tip of the spear?
For the 27th Special Operations Maintenance Squadron AC-130, and MQ-9 Reaper and CV-22 Osprey armament shops competing in Air Force Special Operations Command’s inaugural weapons load crew of the year event, Monday, the answer to those questions is simple – WEAPONS.
Cannon’s elite weapons troops gathered in a newly renovated hangar for a bit of friendly competition geared toward promoting pride within their career field and a sense of camaraderie among crew members.
“Load competitions have occurred throughout the Air Force for decades, but not within AFSOC due to the unique missions of various aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Justin Price, 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group weapons standardization section superintendent. “Today, we are here to witness a test of skill between two weapons load crews that were hand-selected by their sections to showcase weapons loading at its finest.”
Due to the expanding capabilities of AFSOC’s weapons platforms, Cannon was finally able to host the first load competition within the major command for aircraft armament technicians to demonstrate their knowledge and expertise.
“The crews competing today have worked very hard over the past year to earn their place in today’s competition,” Price said. “They excelled in monthly proficiency loads, quarterly evaluations and our everyday mission.”
“Earlier today, these crews were inspected on their dress and appearance, Composite Tool Kit, and administered a written examination consisting of questions related to explosive safety, munitions and support equipment,” he continued. “These points will be added to the overall load portion to identify our winner.”
Six evaluators were present; one for each competing crew member. Each load crew began with 1,000 points distributed as follows: 700 points for the load, 100 points for the 25-question exam, 100 points for weapons load box inspections, and 100 points for dress and appearance in accordance with Air Force Instruction 36-2903.
“Safety and reliability errors will cost the load crew 50 points for each infraction and technical order violations will cost teams 25 points,” Price said. “Two points will be deducted for each 10 second period over the load competition time standard, and two points will be earned back for each 10 second period under that established standard. A load crew cannot lose more than 700 points on the load.”
Crews worked diligently to showcase their skills to both Col. Ben Maitre, 27th Special Operations Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Randy Scanlan, 27th SOW command chief, a prior weapons troop himself, who were among the distinguished spectators and evaluators present during the competition.
Staff Sgt. Olin Smith, Airman 1st Class Ryan Burtis and Airman 1st Class David Coulter represented the 27th SOMXS AC-130 armament shop; while Staff Sgt. Jairo Briceno, Senior Airman Josh Marion and Airman 1st Class Huy Diep represented the 27th SOMXS MQ-9 Reaper and CV-22 Osprey armament shop.
These weapons troops expertly loaded MQ-9 Reaper and AC-130W Stinger II platforms simultaneously, providing a real-time look into career field precision, while proving the depth of their unit’s cohesion at the 27th SOW.
Historically, load crews within the Air Force are based on a three-man concept; four-man for bombers. Each person has very specific duties they are responsible for, which are not interchangeable with other positions on the team.
“The three-man concept ensures focus and proficiency,” Price stated. “After all, you do not want to hear ‘oops’ when handling explosives. The three-man is responsible for ‘safeing’ and inspecting munitions, preparing and then transporting munitions. The two-man inspects and preps the aircraft while conducting functional checks that could be required prior to the load. The one-man is the ‘jack-of-all-trades’; they must ensure the other members do their job, track steps in technical data and oversee the post-load – ultimately ensuring everything is ready for combat.”
While bragging rights would have been enough to satisfy the day’s victors, a traveling trophy was the coveted prize for competitors.
“We are an incredibly competitive career field,” said Smith. “Of course we are all brothers-in-arms, but we all want to be the best in our own respect. Today, we hope to set the standard for others in our community… it is a matter of pride.”
Spectators were left with a bit of a cliffhanger ending, as it was announced that the results of the competition would not be released until the Maintenance Professional of the Year award banquet on April 24.
“In the end, winning or losing is not what matters,” said Briceno. “We just appreciate the fact that we were the lucky few selected and given this opportunity to display what we are capable of to our leaders. We proved to others across the Air Force within the weapons community that AFSOC and the 27th SOW can load with the best of them.”