The chill in the morning air and the dark before dawn didn’t deter the Airmen from the 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron as they prepared training munitions for aircraft participating in combat exercise Red Flag 14-1 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
By providing realistic combat training in a contested, degraded and operationally-limited environment, Red Flag 14-1 provides pilots with real-time war scenarios and helps ground crews test their readiness capabilities.
“Red Flag is an excellent opportunity for us to receive some seriously realistic training,” said SrA. Norman Roope, a 366th AMXS weapons load crew member. “We are able to slow down and really focus on proper weapon handling techniques along with safety concerns. It’s easy to get stuck in the monotony of a daily routine back home and being here really revitalizes us and shows the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish as an Air Force.”
Airmen loaded multiple aircraft with GBU-12 inert munitions in preparation for the day’s flying.
Even though they are inert, the rounds still have guidance systems attached in order to give the aircrew a better training opportunity,” said SSgt. Devin Skelton, a 366th AMXS load crew team chief. “I want to ensure my team is mission ready. It’s more than just going through the motions; it’s about taking the time to ensure each and every munition is ready to go into the fight, regardless of whether it’s an inert or live round.”
According to Skelton, weapons airmen don’t load bombs as often as he would like to. Loading them almost daily during the exercise therefore offers a chance to gain some needed training.
“Having the opportunity to participate in Red Flag is fantastic training for future deployments,” said SrA. Jordan Gee, a 366th AMXS weapons three man. “Being able to work side-by-side with other countries to accomplish the mission is a unique occurrence. Plus, multiple aircraft are going to fly in the next few hours and our jets need to be mission ready. We are responsible for ensuring these munitions are attached safely and correctly so that every player can receive proper training once the bombs are dropped.”
Training was taken up a notch as faulty brackets caused some problems for maintenance airmen.
“There was a small problem with some brackets attached to the inert munitions and this gave us the opportunity to work with our fellow maintenance airmen,” Roope said. “The broken brackets were replaced on the spot and we finished attaching the munitions to the aircraft. Loading the inert rounds also helps everyone get the jitters out so when we load live munitions we are confident and prepared to execute the mission flawlessly.”
Another great aspect of the multinational exercise is the opportunities airmen have once their work day is complete.
“Being on temporary duty here for the exercise is great,” Roope said. “Standing on the flight line we can see the skyscrapers of Las Vegas and Nellis AFB is amazing. There are so many different kinds of aircraft here as well as the Thunderbirds. I really like to watch the aircraft and ground crews from Britain and Australia doing their jobs because I notice the similarities between our nations. It really shows that no matter where we are from we really are one mission, one fight.