Nellis load crew wins weapons regional competition

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Staff Sgt. Melissa White, Senior Airman Lauren Simmons and Senior Airman RaeVonne Powell, all load crew members assigned to the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, stand in front of the trophy they won during the ‘Best in the West’ weapon load competition, June 7, 2019, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The team traveled to Oregon to compete against two other local units in a weapon loading competition. (Air Force photograph by Airman 1st Class Jeremy Wentworth)

Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., serves as a home of training and preparing the future of aerial warfare, so when the 757th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron sent representatives to compete in a load crew competition in Portland, Ore., June 1, 2019, they showed the expertise that comes with experience.

The Nellis team competed against two other units from the 142nd Fighter Wing, assigned to Portland Air National Guard Base, Ore., and the 173rd FW, assigned to Kingsley Field Air National Guard Base, Ore. The competition covered areas that a weapon loading crew is expected to know including a written test and loading ammunition onto an aircraft.

“All loads ended with mission-ready equipment,” said Col. Adam Sitler, commander of the 142nd FW. “Due to how fast both Portland and Kingsley were pushing themselves, they did make a couple errors that they either identified or corrected, but that cost them the win. The Nellis crew chose to take a much slower approach resulting in a flawless load.”

Team Nellis consisted of Staff Sgt. Melissa White, Senior Airman Lauren Simmons and Senior Airman RaeVonne Powell, all load crew members assigned to the 757th AMXS. While this team works at the same squadron, they have something else in common.

“Winning as an all-female team is the best part,” said Powell. “I feel like they underestimated us a little bit but we were able to show that we could perform as well as we needed to.”

While these Airmen don’t normally compete, the skills and abilities exhibited during these competitions are nothing out of the ordinary for them.

“We got to go out and do what we do here but at a different location,” said White. “I think our performance is a reflection of our leadership. Our flight chiefs believed in us and we did not let them down.”

Traveling to another location and working on other aircraft can come with its own challenges however.

“I was the shortest person at the competition,” said Simmons while laughing, “Their jets sit a little higher from where ours sit so I definitely had to adapt and overcome. I had to stand on my toes a few times to reach the workplace.”

The team showed their pride and teamwork from the start, showing up to the competition with a customized toolbox.

“Originally it was an idea from my previous crew,” said Simmons. “We decorated the box to look galaxy and space-themed. The other teams were excited about seeing that so they tried to step their decorating game up. For weapons, we like to make toolboxes our own. We take pride in it and it makes us feel together as a team.”

While the three individuals won the competition, they didn’t do it without help.

“I have to give credit to our load barn,” said White. “We have the best load barn from the top down. They’re supportive, willing to open up their schedules to answer our questions, did a practice load with us, and made it so we were ready to perform.”

Competitions are fun ways for Airmen to test their skills, all with a common goal. They allow Airmen to test their readiness to ensure they can accomplish critical tasks that are required to achieve the mission.