Bringing home the Silver Medal

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 924th Fighter Group competed in Hawgsmoke 2021 at Moody AFB, Ga., April 13-17, 2021.

The 924th FG is a geographically separated unit of the 944th Fighter Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz.

This biennial aerial competition is designed to test the bombing, missile and tactical gunnery skills of the pilots and maintainers of the U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft. The 47th Fighter Squadron and the 924th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, under the 924th Fighter Group, made up one of 13 units from around the world to compete at this year’s Hawgsmoke.

“Hawgsmoke is the last great aerial gunnery competition,” said Col Abel Ramos, 924th FG commander. “It was built upon the ashes of the classic Gunsmoke Competition.”

“Gunsmoke” was the U.S. Air Force’s air-to-ground gunnery and bombing competition with multiple airframes held at Nellis AFB, Nev. When they discontinued that event in 1995, Col Cliff Latta of the Michigan Air National Guard initiated “Hawgsmoke.” The first competition was held in 2002.

This competition is traditionally held biennially at the previous winners’ installation. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the host delayed the 2020 event opting to host it in 2021.

The competition consists of A-10 Thunderbolt II four-ship teams from around the world, fighting to be considered the ‘Best of the Best’ in ground attack and target destruction.

“The 47th FS participated in the flying competition,” Ramos said. “It consists of airborne bombing and gunnery, because it’s the Hawg of course and everyone wants to hear the mighty BRRRTTT, solving tactical problem scenarios with moving vehicles while dealing with multiple restrictions and timing constraints, and finally a Combat Search and Rescue scenario.”

The maintenance units often compete in a Marshalling and Spot on Parking Competition, however, unique to this year’s event was the addition of the first-ever Weapons Load Crew Competition.

“It was an excellent addition,” said Lt Col Whitney Lee, 924th AMXS commander. “The maintenance community, especially weapons, takes a great deal of pride in mastering their craft and displaying their comradery amongst their teammates. Any opportunity to showcase their teamwork and loading skills is a privilege.”

The Airmen participated in a squadron-level competition to earn the right to take part in Hawgsmoke 2021.

“This encourages Airmen to continue to perform at their highest level and challenge one another to be the best maintenance professionals and teammates they can be,” Lee said. “Load competitions will now be a regular occurrence at future Hawgsmoke competitions and my Airmen are already strategizing on how they will win the next one.”

Although there to face up against other maintenance teams, these “Outlaws” didn’t let the drive to win override their duty to wingmanship.

“There was an Indiana Air National Guard load crew that showed up to participate but did not have a certified team chief so one of my Senior Non-commissioned officers stepped up and volunteered to lead them so they were able to compete,” Lee said. “This type of above-and-beyond effort and team spirit is one of the many reasons I am so proud of my Airmen and their contributions to one another as a maintenance family.”

While this event serves to rack and stack these elite A-10 teams, it also brings the community together for another purpose.

“While the competition is worthwhile, the comradery is really the highlight of Hawgsmoke,” Ramos said. “Every competition is a Hawg Driver Reunion. We take advantage of this and open up each Hawgsmoke with a “Lost Hawg” ceremony.”

Reserve Citizen Airmen from the 924th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron wait for the Weapons Load Crew Competition to begin during the Hawgsmoke 2021 competition at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., April 13-17, 2021. In past years’ events the maintainer participated in the Marshalling and Spot on Parking Competition, however, unique to this year’s event was the addition of first-ever Weapons Load Crew Competition. The 924th AMXS, a maintenance squadron in the 924th Fighter Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., is a Geographically Separated Unit of the 944th Fighter Wing. (Courtesy photograph)

During that ceremony the attendees gather and call out the names of each Hawg Driver that they have lost over the years, paying tribute to their sacrifice.

“This is an emotional event that reminds us of our friends that have preceded us,” Ramos said.

At the end of the day, the 47th Fighter Squadron finished on the competition podium.

“Of the 13 teams, the “Terrible Termites” finished in 2nd place overall,” Ramos said.

This year’s winner was the 190th Fighter Squadron out of Gowen Field Air National Guard Base in Boise, Idaho. They now have the privilege of hosting the next competition, allowing the Termites and Outlaws to try and win their fourth Hawgsmoke title.

“Regardless of the competition, we will continue celebrating the “Hawg” culture, mindset, and those who have come before us,” Ramos said.

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