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Nomads adjust Weapons load competition in the face of COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amber Litteral
  • 33rd Fighter Wing

Despite continued COVID-19 measures practiced across the 33rd Fighter Wing, personnel from the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit have maintained quarterly weapons load competitions while practicing safety measures and alternative procedures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19.


The quarterly weapons load competitions showcase various load crews’ skills in a timed contest that grades their proficiency, safety and accuracy following joint technical data. The load crews that perform the best move on for a chance to compete in the annual load competition.


“Load competitions are held all over the world at each base where munitions are loaded; more specifically, Weapons Standardization usually hosts the competition in the weapons load training hangar,” said Staff Sgt. Chamar Rambaransingh, a 58th AMU Weapons load crew chief.


The load competitions are typically held in house at the weapons load training hangar at the 33rd. An event showing Airmen loading inert munitions onto 33rd FW F-35A LII aircraft that is usually open to the rest of the wing and visitors has now adjusted to mitigate the exposure of COVID-19.


“Since load competitions are based on time, safety, box CTK and meeting standards, we are going through each team at different times to limit exposer,” said Airman 1st Class Colton Clark, a 58th AMU weapons load crew member.


At a standard load comp hosted by the 33rd FW, two teams compete at the same time. To limit personnel present and keep the Airmen as safe as possible, the teams competed on different days with only the load crews and grading personnel present at the event. Every competing member, grading personnel and supervisory staff present also wore masks throughout the entirety of each aircraft load.


The Airmen at the AMU have taken the addition of masks, another factor in an already high-pressure environment, in stride, performing just as well now as in a pre-COVID-19 setting.


“The wear of masks has not much affected our loaders’ performance,” said Clark. “Most of our leaders have been rather comfortable and have acclimated to the conditions as expected.”


The continuation of these load competitions despite limited numbers and a change in the event’s execution is integral to these Airmen’s training. The competition gives Airmen something to look forward to where they can put their technical training to the test.


“Aside from daily loading operations, load competitions encourage even more teamwork within each crew to achieve the fastest load time possible,” said Rambaransingh. “The Airmen genuinely enjoy being part of this career-specific tradition.” 


Each event requires preparation by both the Airmen competing and the personnel setting up the competition space. 


“Each crew is tested on knowledge of the weapons career field, uniform inspection, composite tool kit inspection, and of course, the loading portion,” said Rambaransingh.   “The crews go through extensive studying, personal grooming, scrubbing and polishing of tools, and loading practice to achieve the best score.” 

It is the practice of additional social distancing and safety protocols during competitions and training at the 33rd that preserves the mission at the lowest level to ensure combat readiness and deterrence at our Air Force’s highest levels.