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Weapons load Airmen help win the fight

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, secures inert guided bomb units to a munitions trailer during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. The 28th AMXS is the largest squadron in the 28th Bomb Wing, with more than 700 Airmen supporting Ellsworth’s combat coded B-1 bombers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, secures inert guided bomb units to a munitions trailer during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. The 28th AMXS is the largest squadron in the 28th Bomb Wing, with more than 700 Airmen supporting Ellsworth’s combat coded B-1 bombers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, inspects inert guided bomb units prior to loading them into a B-1 bomber mock trainer in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Guided bomb units are 500-pound precision strike, satellite guided munitions that deliver accurate strikes against moving and stationary targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, inspects inert guided bomb units prior to loading them into a B-1 bomber mock trainer in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Guided bomb units are 500-pound precision strike, satellite guided munitions that deliver accurate strikes against moving and stationary targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, secures an inert guided bomb unit to a mobile lift to prepare for real-world scenarios in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Ellsworth weapons load crews prepare and train monthly to stay proficient in the handling and transportation of munitions for missions downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, secures an inert guided bomb unit to a mobile lift to prepare for real-world scenarios in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Ellsworth weapons load crews prepare and train monthly to stay proficient in the handling and transportation of munitions for missions downrange. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, secures an inert guided bomb unit to a munitions trailer in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. In an effort to prevent mishaps, weapons loading Airmen train daily to strengthen their munitions handling and transporting skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, secures an inert guided bomb unit to a munitions trailer in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. In an effort to prevent mishaps, weapons loading Airmen train daily to strengthen their munitions handling and transporting skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Load crew team members assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load an inert guided bomb unit into a mock B-1 bomber simulator in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. After every tasking, weapons loaders perform quality checks to verify all weapons systems are operational prior to B-1 missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Load crew team members assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load an inert guided bomb unit into a mock B-1 bomber simulator in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. After every tasking, weapons loaders perform quality checks to verify all weapons systems are operational prior to B-1 missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Inert guided bomb units are ready to be loaded into a mock B-1 bomber simulator by weapons load crew Airmen during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Weapons load crew Airmen enable each B-1 bomber to deliver a payload of up to 75,000 pounds to mission targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Inert guided bomb units are ready to be loaded into a mock B-1 bomber simulator by weapons load crew Airmen during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Weapons load crew Airmen enable each B-1 bomber to deliver a payload of up to 75,000 pounds to mission targets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Staff Sgts. Adam Borton (left) and Ryan Wooley, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew members, secure an inert guided bomb unit in a mock B-1 bomber simulator during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. In addition to initial training, all weapons loaders are evaluated monthly to ensure that they maintain qualification and proficiency in the handling and transportation of munitions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Staff Sgts. Adam Borton (left) and Ryan Wooley, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew members, secure an inert guided bomb unit in a mock B-1 bomber simulator during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. In addition to initial training, all weapons loaders are evaluated monthly to ensure that they maintain qualification and proficiency in the handling and transportation of munitions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant and Senior Airman Tawnielle Childs, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew members, secure inert guided bomb units to a munitions trailer during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Weapons load crew Airmen are qualified to operate various special-purpose vehicles designed to transport and handle munitions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Airman 1st Class Michael Bryant and Senior Airman Tawnielle Childs, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew members, secure inert guided bomb units to a munitions trailer during training at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Weapons load crew Airmen are qualified to operate various special-purpose vehicles designed to transport and handle munitions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Wooley, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew team chief, briefs and directs his team as they prepare for real-world scenarios in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Woolie is responsible for overview and guidance to ensure that his team is proficient and capable of arming Ellsworth’s B-1 bomber fleet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

Staff Sgt. Ryan Wooley, 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew team chief, briefs and directs his team as they prepare for real-world scenarios in the Load Crew Training Facility at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Aug. 13, 2013. Woolie is responsible for overview and guidance to ensure that his team is proficient and capable of arming Ellsworth’s B-1 bomber fleet. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Weapons load crew Airmen assigned to the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron enable the base's B-1 fleet to provide critical air presence, precision strike and reconnaissance capability worldwide.

While this may sound general to some, those who understand the crucial role played by these Airmen know full well how important they are to the base accomplishing its mission.

Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Shaver, 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit flight chief, explained how they are responsible for servicing and maintaining B-1 weapons systems.

"In order to provide aircrews with a serviceable aircraft that can accomplish the mission, there are a lot of different tasks we must accomplish first," Shaver said. "From loading a B-1 with a wide array of munitions and performing integrity checks to troubleshooting any issues that may arise - it's a full-time job."

Master Sgt. Joshua Klotz, 28th AMXS weapons section chief who has been a load crew Airman for more than 18 years, is responsible for managing 55 weapons troops and 12 load crews.

One of them is Staff Sgt. Ryan Wooley, 28th AMXS weapons load crew team chief. He is responsible for the overview and guidance of his team - ensuring they are capable of arming Ellsworth's B-1s.

"Without this job, munitions wouldn't be loaded onto aircraft, and aircrews wouldn't be able to protect the troops we have on the ground and destroy targets that need to be taken out in deployed locations," said Wooley.

He noted that precision is important when it comes to the handling, transportation and employment of explosive munitions.

During the last rotation, the 34th AMU utilized precision-guided munitions resulting in a 100 percent weapons release rate.

Before deploying and operating at that level of efficiency, Wooley said that the biggest challenge weapons load Airmen face is learning how to properly handle and troubleshoot the various munitions that the B-1 can employ. Weapons load crew Airmen start by going through initial certification training, which consists of a two-week course conducted at their home station.

"Two evaluators watch the load crew's performance from the initial safety briefing, loading procedures and post-load inspection," Klotz said. "If the evaluators deem them proficient within specific criteria outlined in Air Force instructions, then the crew is certified."

Weapons load crews have to train for certification on all munitions they handle. B-1 load crews at Ellsworth are certified on nine primary, five secondary and four limited-use munitions.

After this initial qualification, load crew members are required to practice loading one third of all unit-committed munitions monthly to retain certification.

Klotz said that this is, a timed event that is once again, performed under the watchful eye of at least two evaluators checking for safety, reliability and proficiency.

"I think it's amazing to train Airmen to be the future of the Air Force ... watch them develop their skills and one day perform their duties better than their trainers," Wooley said. "We get to watch them grow from an Airman with little to no experience to become a professional with a vast array of knowledge and skills."

Shaver said that training plays a crucial role in keeping weapons troops proficient for missions.

"Our ops tempo can be unreal, especially with the B-1 being a highly-utilized aircraft," Shaver said. "There's always a B-1 present to ensure that the bad guys get what's coming to them."
He added that weapons load crew Airmen are constantly evaluated and held to high standards in preparation for deployments.

"It makes me proud to know that what we are doing has a direct impact on the mission," Shaver said. "We are the tip of the spear. Our skills and dedication are part of the reason why we win the fight."

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