JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Members of the 525th and 90th Aircraft Maintenance Unit tested their F-22 Raptor loading readiness and their will to win during the Quarterly Wing Load Crew Competition at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Oct. 26, 2018.
The quarterly competition comprises two weapons load crews, each with three members competing against each other to demonstrate which AMU finishes first while keeping up accuracy.
“Inside the team you have a one man, two man and a three man or you can say one position, two position or three position,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Paul Nightingale, wing weapons manager assigned to the 3rd Maintenance Group. “Each position has a dedicated set of tasks they have to accomplish throughout the load. The one position is in charge of the load crew, they are the most experienced and most certified.
“The two position does mostly aircraft preparation and assists the one man with loading the ammunition onto the aircraft. The three position prepares the munition and drives it up to the aircraft on a jammer.”
Although the teams prepare as much as they can for the competition, they are unaware of what the specifics are until 30 minutes before it starts.
“Before the timed part of the competition begins, the crews come here and go through a 25-question test, a uniform inspection and a tools inspection,” Nightingale said. “These parts go into a point scale used for the overall competition. At no point before the competition are they told what they are loading onto the aircraft. The teams find out the load and then they will know if they are prepared for it or not.
Some of the munitions loaded onto the F-22 Raptors were the GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) which is used for accurate, adverse weather conventional strikes. The medium range missile for air intercept AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile was also loaded during the competition.
At the end of the competition, the 525th AMU team formed by Staff Sgt. Kayla Fitzgerald, Senior Airman Lorenzo Singleton and Senior Airman Joseph Turcotte won against the 90th AMU team of Staff Sgt. Taylor Bechtol, Staff Sgt. Matthew Harmon and Airman 1st Class Anthony Lewis.
“I feel we came prepared,” said Fitzgerald. “My crew and I have been working together for quite some time now so we are familiar with each other. There is a lot of fluidity when it comes to loading practices and procedures. I felt we were focused, and we tried not to get anxious or too excited. We know what our positions and roles are, and that helped us with the ease of the load and to remain relaxed.”
After all the sweat and dedication the 90th AMU fell short of winning, but this is not going to be the last time we hear from them.
“Both crews came out and did their best and represented their units well,” Bechtol said. “Unfortunately the 90th wasn’t able to win this time, but we have another quarter to prepare for the next competition. I am confident we will come out on top next quarter and ultimately win load crew of the year.”
These types of competitions are a friendly way to test AMUs capacities making sure every day of training pays of while adding some fun to it. All things aside, the main reason for it, is to maintain mission readiness, no matter the cost.
“These certified load crews are required to be ready at all times and that’s one of the focuses of the competition: Are you really ready?,” said Nightingale.