Airmen from the 412th Maintenance Group gathered outside of Bldg. 1600 to†shoot for†victory at the Second Quarter Fighter Weapons Load Competition July 7.
Weapons load crews from the 445th, 411th and 461st Aircraft Maintenance Units worked on†their F-16, F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, respectively. The winning team earns bragging rights in the form of the traveling Load Competition Championship Belt to put on display in their section until the next quarterly competition. The winning team will be announced in the afternoon on July 11.
Each team is tasked with loading an air intercept missile and a guided bomb onto their aircraft with speed and precision. There are three crew members assigned to represent each team and an individual evaluator for each loader to verify that tasks and procedures are performed safely and according to technical data standards.
Representatives for the teams are selected based on weapons†load†training and flightline evaluation results for that quarter. Prior to the weapons upload, competitors are evaluated on uniform presentation; given a written examination testing the participant’s knowledge of loading weapons on their respective aircraft; and presentation of their Composite Tool Kit for a thorough inspection of their tools.
“The competition is about morale and to keep it alive. You got to keep going, day-to-day tasks, or you just kind of loose your focus and doing this brings it back into perspective,” said Senior Airman Michael Pierson, 412th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron†and Weapons Coalition secretary.
Tech. Sgt. Anthony Higuera, 412th MXG, Weapons Coalition vice president added, “Us weapons guys and girls are very competitive in what we do being aircraft maintainers, so it gives us a forum to show our talent and showcase ourselves.”
According to Higuera, the Weapons Coalition raises funds to help other organizations continue their competitions, such as the unfunded sports programs at Desert High School.
For Col. Robby Weaver, 412th MXG commander, the quarterly competition was his last before his retirement July 10.
“It’s also the last military operation I’ll be out here to watch, so I’m looking forward to being very impressed,” said Weaver.
Following the competition, a Jammer Jamboree named the fastest driver in the MJ-1B munitions loader. Each driver was timed as they navigated their way around a series of orange cones forwards and backwards. In honor of his retirement, Weaver was the first to get behind the wheel.
“The competitions are very good for unit morale and it’s a lot of fun. I think these are an important part of what we do here and great for spectators,” said Weaver. “To make it a competition gives the guys a little more motivation to try to outperform their teammates and to outperform what they did the last time.”
Weaver added that the events inspire pride in the unit and encourage each team to operate better, faster, and more safely and accurately.
“The thing that makes it special here, and that makes it special to me, is that Edwards is kind of unique in that we do different types of aircraft and different types of weapons more so than a standard base,” said Weaver. “It’s great to be able to come out here and see us do an F-16, an F-22 and an F-35 as part of a competition because that’s kind of unique in the Air Force. For me, coming out and being able to watch this on my last week in uniform has really been terrific.”
Weaver is retiring after 25 years in the Air Force, the last three have been as commander of the 412th MXG.
“I have really enjoyed being part of what I think is one of the most special maintenance groups that I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. Loaders, keep up the great job that you do every day, continue to do safe and professional weapons loading and watch out for each other. I leave the Air Force in very, very good hands.”
Winners of the weapons load competition will be published in the July 18 edition of the Desert Wings.