Loadbarn houses weapons experts

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
This barn isn't painted red and there aren't any animals housed here; however, it does house equipment. Without this barn, the weapons community does not have the venue to teach Airmen how to properly load weapons systems onto aircraft.

On Moody, this barn is referred to as the load barn and it's reserved for the 23d Maintenance Group's weapons standardization section. With Moody's combat mission, approximately 200,000 pounds of munitions are loaded yearly and each one must be loaded safely and proficiently.

"The loadbarn is the upper echelon of the weapons community," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Darrick Evans, 23d MXG weapons standardization superintendent, who described the loadbarn as the face of the weapons community. "It is the pinnacle for all 2W1's. This job is essential to every combat and training mission generated in an aircraft [because] properly configured aircraft give pilots great confidence that the munitions loaded will function as designed."

Airmen from the loadbarn are responsible for teaching the loading procedures and techniques necessary to keep all the munitions on the HH-60G Pave Hawk and A-10C Thunderbolt II dropping and firing. This is accomplished through training, evaluating, certifying and qualifying all Airmen in the weapons career field.

"We teach loading to all of the weapons career fields on base," said Tech. Sgt. Zedrick Threatt, 23d MXG weapons loading standardization crew member. "We make sure they are abiding by the standards, rules, regulation and technical data."

Daily the section trains individual load crews from the 41st Helicopter Maintenance Unit, the 74th and 75th Aircraft Maintenance Units to train them on proficiency, reliability, timeliness, standardization and safety procedures. The load crews are evaluated on a monthly basis.

"Once a month each loading crew comes (to the loadbarn) to demonstrate their proficiency on the different types of munitions that we schedule throughout the year," said Tech. Sgt. Zachary Marquis, 23d MXG loading standardization crew member.

Airmen in the weapons career field are qualified annually and certified quarterly on all of the weapons loading procedures by the standardization section. Airmen are certified on loading procedures for bombs and qualified on smaller types of munitions such as ammunition.

For the A-10 specifically, Airmen are trained on every air to ground missile the aircraft employs and for the HH-60s, Airmen are qualified on the loading procedures for flares and gun system operational checks, said Marquis.

The weapons career field is broad and every Airman doesn't work on the flightline but they all must receive weapons training from the standardization section.

"We also teach a weapons academics class to all (weapons) personnel assigned to the base despite whether or not they work on the flightline," said Marquis. "If you're a 2W1 you have to come up here every 15 months to receive this weapons academics class, which is basically an explosive-safety class requirement."

Certified and qualified load crews make up combat load crews and without them the A-10s bombs don't drop and the HH-60s guns don't fire.

"It's very important [they know what they're doing] because you don't want to have a bomb not expend properly because the wiring is configured wrong," said Threatt. 

Moody's 23d Maintenance Group wing weapons manager agrees the mission can't get accomplished if load crews aren't certified and qualified.

"If they don't maintain these qualifications and certifications then we decertify the individual which now prevents them from maintaining the aircraft," said Chief Master Sgt. Guillermo Castillo. "If they can't load the aircraft, then the unit cannot provide combatant commanders with combat aircraft."

Without effective and reliable training, we don't have effective and reliable load crews and without that we don't get the combat aircraft that our mission requires, Castillo added.
One of the main focuses of the section is to ensure they are teaching every Airman the same standardized techniques and procedures across the wing.

"The training is so standardized maintainers can intermix with other load crews at any given time and seamlessly perform the job safely, reliably, and proficiently," Castillo added.

This type of precision training is no easy feat, so the members of the weapons standardization section are hand-picked based on their past experiences and performance.

"The good thing about weapons standardization is we interview and hand-select (Airmen) to come up here," said Castillo. "[We pick] a person who has already proven themselves, so they can mentor and train the rest of the wing."

The skills of this section are proven time and time again when Moody's pilots use their weapons systems and it does what it's designed to do because it was loaded properly.

"These Airmen take it very serious when it comes to configuring an aircraft to combat." said Castillo. "If we don't do it right then the pilot is just going to be punching a hole up in the sky. It has to be loaded properly and configured properly for it to be able to do what the mission requires and give the pilot the full capabilities of the aircraft."

Ensuring every weapons Airmen is trained is an enormous task that takes precision, but it also takes a certain level of pride.

"We take pride in knowing that our load crews properly configured the aircraft and saved our brothers in arms from direct or indirect fire attacks," said Evans. "Each year we load, (approximately) 220,000 30mm rounds and over 200,000 (pounds) of munitions with an overall target rate of 99 percent. This is a depiction of how accurate our loading abilities are [and it confirms our motto] 'We provide our enemies a chance to die for their country.'"