Weapons Airmen vital to airpower

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Rebeckah Medeiros
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

Every munition loaded onto an aircraft is loaded for a purpose, to be used for training or against an adversary in a life or death situation.


When a trigger is pulled, it is the men and women of the Weapons Standardization Section who have ensured every munition operated as intended and served its purpose.


The WSS Airmen work tirelessly to ensure weapons are loaded onto aircraft, load crews are trained and those crews are following procedures, because a single failure in a combat environment can easily lead to death and mission failure. Since the stakes are so high, there is a deliberate and comprehensive approach to developing munitions Airmen.


“The Weapons Standardization Section upholds the weapons load crew training program, which is there to enforce that our load crews receive and maintain proficiency,” said Tech. Sgt. Clayton Thomas, 23rd Maintenance Squadron load crew chief. “Without weapons on the aircraft, it’s just an airline. We are showcasing that we’re capable of generating safe, reliable and efficiently loaded aircraft.”


Someone has to keep the tip of the spear sharp, and the WSS does this by conducting frequent inspections to verify training effectiveness and ensure loading procedures are being upheld to the highest standards.


“Loading munitions can be dangerous if not done properly, so quality training for the crews is important for us so we can then provide quality training for the pilots,” said Senior Airman David Walker, 23rd MXS weapons load crew chief.


WSS trains multiple aircraft maintenance squadrons on safe and efficient munitions loading procedures prior to loading an aircraft. Pilots can then execute their mission safely and effectively, because those fully trained Airmen quickly arm up an aircraft.


“There’s usually a moment where you can see people get it and it clicks all of a sudden,” Thomas said. “Watching that happen, watching them develop a system and start to do these things effectively … it’s a very rewarding moment for me.”


The hard work pays off. Out of an eight-hour WSS shift, approximately six of those are spent doing evaluations or inspections on the flight line. The WSS goes through months of records to best determine who will participate in the famous quarterly and annual load competitions.


“Load crew competitions provide an opportunity to showcase our mission readiness and what we are capable of,” Thomas said. “Our mission is to ensure safe, secure, reliable and proficient loading procedures.”


These load crew competitions are much more than a friendly rivalry, they are used to create a high-stress environment — similar to a deployed location — where peak performance is the standard.


Competitions display the capability to generate airpower quickly and efficiently. They provide Airmen working on the flight line a goal to strive for and show every Airmen that touches a munition why they work so hard.


Through the various methods the WSS uses to keep their Airmen sharp, the 23rd Wing is ready to answer the nation’s call when close air support is needed.