Even in the midst of a pandemic, weapons loading crews from the 57th Maintenance Group at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., must earn and maintain proficiency because they are essential to the Air Force’s combat and training missions.
To do that, they must certify under the watchful eyes of the Weapons Standardization shop, otherwise known as the “load barn.”
“Any time new weapons troops arrive to the base, we have to certify them,” said Tech. Sgt. Adam Johnson, 57th MXG weapons loading standardization crew lead.
“Then, every month they come down for their monthly proficiency review load to ensure they continue to maintain safe loading standards.”
While some mission areas have slowed operations, Weapons Standardization remains because stopping load crew certification would have a ripple effect across the base’s flying operations.
“If load crews don’t stay certified, they can’t load specific munitions onto their aircraft,” said Master Sgt. LaMarr Richmond, 57th MXG loading standardization crew lead. “Then when the flying schedule has that munition come down for training, they won’t be able to use it. If the pilots aren’t getting the training they need, it affects our combat air forces.”
Though the job still needs to be done, Airmen at the load barn have made significant changes to the way they do business and are dedicated to ensuring they remain safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We operate with a good amount of flexibility,” said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher August, 57th Wing weapons manager. “Some folks might not be evaluated in (our building), but we’ll go and evaluate them at their unit or on the flight line. We’ve scaled back our schedules and personnel, but are still able to fulfill our requirements to stay proficient.”
The load barn Airmen have adapted new practices such as wiping down all surfaces and munitions between each load to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
“This is one of those unique opportunities to thrive, and my folks are doing amazing at it,” said August. “The evaluation piece that we contribute to, allows the operators to keep at it, and fight the fight they need to.”