Load crew Airmen ready to strut their stuff

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- It is common knowledge here at Seymour Johnson, as well as at every fighter wing, that we are part of the most lethal air force in the world. There is, however, one piece of information that may not be as widely known, and that is what makes us so powerful and dangerous to the enemy.

The answer to the question lies within a distinct group of enlisted people that exist at every fighter wing world-wide -- the weapons loaders from the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron here and every other aircraft maintenance unit in the Air Force.

These people alone put the "force" in Air Force. They work up to 12 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week for 52 weeks a year. Just like the post office, they perform in the rain, snow, heat and cold. This kind of steadfast dedication is rare today, and these men and women exemplify the core value of service before self.

To honor their dedication to the trade, the 4th Fighter Wing's Weapons Standardization section holds a quarterly weapons loading competition that determines who the best on the base is. For these competitions, the weapons sections of the 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron choose their best three-person load crew team to represent their section.

The chosen crews arrive at the WS hangar on competition day to be evaluated by the WS personnel. They are judged on proper aircraft and munitions preparation procedures. They then undergo a uniform inspection, an inspection of their tools and equipment, and take a written test. Finally, the crews get to demonstrate their prowess by loading the prepared munitions onto an F-15E Strike Eagle.

The load and preparation is a timed event, and all facets of the competition are scored to determine the winner. The actual loading event is a head-to-head, shotgun start competition with two events: the 333rd AMU vs. the 334th AMU, and the 335th AMU vs. the 336th AMU.

The overall winner not only gets bragging rights for the quarter, but each crew member receives a three-day pass, an individual plaque and an AAFES coupon package. In addition to the individual awards, the winners' unit gets the privilege of displaying the traveling trophy for the quarter.

If you're into fast-paced competition, feel free to come out and watch the next competition.

There are always two loading events open to anyone. The next competition will be held July 28 at 10 a.m. and noon in the WSS hangar located on Andrews Street. The crews from the 333d and the 334th AMUs load at 10 a.m., and the 335th and 336th AMU crews load at noon. If you plan on attending either or both events, arrive at least 20 minutes early so you can be in place by the start time.

For more information, call 722-0476.