MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
Three airmen scramble to their places with lightning speed and proficiency while classic rock pulsates in the background, setting a scene reminiscent of something you'd see in "Top Gun". Each of them has a specific role to play, without all of them at their absolute best the team fails. They're not the only ones racing to a quick finish.
The 366th Fighter Wing weapons load competition is a morale/training event that took place Oct. 14, which provides recognition for a job that doesn't often get the spotlight. Three teams of three compete against each other to see who can load training munitions on each of their jets the fastest.
"It's just part of our load crew recognition program, it's a morale event more than anything," said Master Sgt. William Catlin, 366th Maintenance Group weapons standardization superintendent. "It's a chance for those guys who come down here and showcase what they can do every month. Who can have the fastest, cleanest load."
The competition starts with each team doing a uniform inspection, followed by a written test on anything and everything regarding loading munitions. As soon as the written test is finished, they have roughly 30 minutes to look their jet and training munitions over. At this point the actual loading happens and when it's over everything is factored into an overall score. While this event is a large attraction every quarter, the actual functions they demonstrate are performed all year long, including a required monthly certification.
"Every crew down there comes up here every month and they do a load." Catlin said. "They have a whole schedule mapped out, per year that we coordinate with headquarters. Big Air Force says this is what we're going to load throughout the year. They come up every month and they basically get graded on a load. It's pass or fail, and it's to maintain their certifications."
While the load competition is going on, there is a bomb loader maneuverability course being run in the same hangar. The course, set up by Senior Airman Kacy Huddleston, 366th Maintenance Group standardization load crew, tests the operator's driving abilities on a munitions lift truck as they navigate a series of cones, and at times have to operate on driving skill alone with limited vision of their obstacles.
"Each squadron nominates their most skilled driver and they come in blind to the competition." said Huddleston. "They don't know the events that are going to happen. So we try to come up with new events for everyone. Try to show off their skill, like their precision driving, how fast they can go."
The three teams fighting for the trophy are the 428th "Buccaneers", the 389th "T-bolts" and the 391st "Tigers". While this event is a fun day with a Halloween decorated theme, it is a viewer friendly version of a very serious and important job where tiny details can mean massive failure or great success.
"It educates people on what we do." Catlin said. "A lot of people don't know what weapons does, what we do on a daily basis. A lot of people only see us when we go deploy, and by then we're telling people to get away because it's live explosives so we don't want them in the area. So it's huge because it gives us a chance to show what they do on a daily basis."