Senior Airman Douglas Covey delivers a CATM-120 AMRAAM missile to be loaded onto an F-22 Raptor while team leader Staff Sgt. Alexe Perez supervises. The R-3 team from the 411th Aircraft Maintenance Unit won this quarter's Load Crew Competition. The F-22 loaders edged out the JSF-1 crew competing for the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Unit. (Air Force photo by Edward Cannon)
4/13/2011 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- The F-22 weapons load crew edged out the Joint Strike Fighter crew to win the first quarter 2011 Weapons Load Competition held April 4 near Hangar 1600.
The friendly competition kicked off at about 8 a.m. with a uniform inspection, followed by a written exam to test the loaders' basic knowledge of loading bombs and missiles onto their respective aircraft.
Quality Assurance inspector Lennis Ben, 412th Maintenance Group, inspected the Components Tool Kits for corrosion and other damage. The CTK inspection load crew is responsible for maintaining the tool kits, which hold all the tools and technical data needed to load an aircraft.
Overseeing the competition was Senior Master Sgt. Christine Beaudion, Wing Weapons manager. Sergeant Beaudion is responsible for all loading of weapons on base.
Just two teams competed during this first quarter round - the F-22 R-3 load crew from the 411th Aircraft Maintenance Unit and the F-35 JSF-1 load crew from the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Unit.
All AMUs are eligible to join the weapons loading competition. The bomber and F-16 units could not provide an aircraft for the event, but Sergeant Beaudion said she hopes they will all be able to compete at the next event in September.
Each crew loaded a CATM-120 missile and a JDAM in the weapons bays while evaluators checked the loads for safety and performance.
Sergeant Beaudion explained the history behind weapons loading competitions and said competing while arming jets for the fight began in the early 1950s.
"Weapons loading competitions have been a tradition in the Air Force since before the Korean War, when bomb loaders would test their skill and speed against one another," she said.
Loaders came up with the idea because of the small window of time allowed in between aircraft sorties. They turned it into a competition and they enjoy the bragging rights that go to the winner at the end of the day, she said.
Each crew consists of three members and each member has a specific responsibility. Loading the F-22 was crew R-3, led by Staff Sgt. Alexe Perez. His team members were Staff Sgt. Marcel Ford and Senior Airman Douglas Covey.
The F-35 crew was JSF-1, led by Staff Sgt. Lauren Cantu, with members Senior Airman Corey Thomas and Senior Airman Coty Perez.
The lead crewmember is always considered crewmember number one and is the load crew chief. The number one crewman is in charge of the loading operation, operates portable maintenance aids and attaches stores to the pylon or rack.
Crewmember number two performs the pylon and rack preparation and assists the crew chief during munitions loading.
Finally, crewmember number three performs munitions preparation and operates the bomb lift truck during loading operations.
Sergeant Beaudion said each unit selects its team through monthly loading statistics and flightline evaluations, and each crewmember goes through a fitness test.
"It's a close competition and the crew with the best monthly loading stats is usually selected to represent their unit," she said.
The F-22 loading crew walked away with bragging rights for the second time. "They won the third quarter loading competition last year," Sergeant Beaudion said.
In addition to bragging rights, the three members of the Raptor load crew also won a one-day pass and a plaque.