Load crews battle for bragging rights

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Shelby R. Orozco
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
There is no room for error.

Every step and every hand movement made by the crews loading munitions onto B-2 Spirit stealth bombers is deliberate and steady, and every thought must focus on what to do next.

When B-2s are called upon to provide a rapid, forceful response, Air Force officials know they can count on the load crews at Whiteman to get the bombers ready for the fight - and to do it quickly and accurately.

Honing the skills behind that confidence requires a great deal of practice, and the quarterly load crew competition here gives Airmen in the 13th and the 393rd Aircraft Maintenance Units a chance to showcase them.

The most recent faceoff held July 18 was no different, with both teams racing against the clock to be crowned the best. At the end of the competition, the Airmen of the 393rd AMU walked away victorious.

"The four competitors in each crew are hand-selected every month based on zero deficiencies and the best loading times," said Staff Sgt. Lee Smithwhaley, 509th Maintenance Group squadron lead crew team member. "Sometimes it's the same crews each quarter, but generally each quarter has different crews competing."

The crews are judged on their dress and appearance, toolkit inspections, a 25-question test and the overall timed load of a practice munition. This quarter's winners were determined by overall score, with the 393rd winning by 97 points.

"It felt pretty great to be announced the winners," said Airman 1st Class Daniel Villarreal, 393rd AMU aircraft armament technician and load crew team member. "It was good to know we did our best and came out on top."

To stay ready while not competing, both AMUs are required to perform monthly proficiency loads, along with examining technical data and the practice munitions themselves.

"We were all pretty confident going into the competition," said Villarreal. "We just had to review with each other what we had to do."

The monthly practices and the quarterly competitions are identical to how the Airmen are expected to perform during a real-world mission, said Smithwhaley.

"Not only does the competition let the Airmen show excellence in all they do, it also builds pride," said Smithwhaley. "It shows good teamwork and communication between the crewmembers."

"Being on a load crew is like having a close knit group of friends in a way," said Villarreal. "The more you load together, the more comfortable you are. Our load crew is very comfortable with each other and we know how to work together efficiently. We are going to continue to practice and always perform our best."

The winners from all four quarterly competitions will face off during the annual competition in early 2014 for bragging rights as the best of the best. Until then, it will be more training and more quarterly displays of mission readiness.