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NEWS | Oct. 18, 2023

8th FW hosts bilateral Peninsula-wide munitions load competition

By Tech. Sgt. Emili Koonce, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Munitions Airmen from Osan AB and Kunsan AB competed at Pen Fest, the annual bilateral munitions load crew competition, Oct. 14.

The load crews from Osan AB hailed from the 25th Fighter Generation Squadron and 36th FGS while Kunsan AB was represented by the 35th FGS, 80th FGS and ROK Air Force mission partners from the 38th Fighter Group.

All five teams were evaluated on their ability to efficiently load three different munitions onto their respective aircraft. While the event is timed, quality assurance evaluators confirm the team’s accuracy and factor any deficiencies into the overall score. 

“Yes it is about speed but it’s also about proficiency,” said Senior Master Sgt. Benjamin Nicholson, 35th FGS weapons section chief. “When the pilots get in the jet we have to ensure that munitions are going to deploy and fire at the right time, so our crews have a lot of pride in their role of ensuring that loads are done by the book.”

Before the load crews faced off, munitions systems specialists from both bases went head-to-head in a munitions-building competition. Munitions systems specialists, commonly known as ammo troops, were also evaluated on how fast they completed their tasks and how few discrepancies they made, if any.

The 8th Maintenance Squadron ammo team brought home the win as the U.S. Air Force and ROK Air Force load crews prepared for their competition.

“I’m feeling a little nervous as this is my first base but very confident in my crew and in the training we’ve conducted to prepare for today,” said Airman 1st Class Edward Saenz, 25th FGS load crew member, prior to the event. “I want to make our squadron proud and walk away more experienced.”

At the sound of “Go!” all five teams dashed into action as they loaded an MK-82, GBU-31 and AIM-9 Sidewinder onto their squadron’s aircraft.

Dust settled and scores tallied, the 35th FGS from Kunsan AB emerged victorious.

“It’s hectic when you’re out there because all you can hear is cheering, but I just toned everything out and focused on what I’m supposed to be doing to get the job done,” said Airman 1st Class Jack Sheldon, 35th FGS load crew member. “This was my first Pen Fest and I learned you have to take it very seriously because we’ve got some really good loaders out here in the ROK.”

While only one squadron can walk away with the trophy, Pen Fest is designed so that all teams leave with a broader understanding of their strengths and what areas they can improve upon.

“Thanks to all the organizers who put together this event where we can recognize all the weapons load teams across the Peninsula,” said Col. Jeffrey D. Shulman, 8th Fighter Wing deputy commander. “I hope each team takes home a stronger sense of camaraderie and motivation to come back and win next year.”