JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va –
The 1st Maintenance Group hosted a Weapons Load Crew of the Quarter competition between the 27th and 94th Aircraft Maintenance Units, April 28, 2017.
On this occasion, the quarterly competition, which gives Airmen from each AMU the opportunity to showcase their proficiency in loading aircraft munitions, held a deeper meaning as the weapons teams paid tribute to recently fallen Airmen: Senior Airmen Sara Toy and Austin Terrell, and Staff Sgt. Alexandria Morrow.
“The competition was dedicated to the three weapons troops that we recently lost as a way to continue tradition and honor them,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Daley, 1st MXG Weapons Standardization loading standardization crew chief.
For U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Samuel Lewis, 27th AMU weapons crew chief, honoring these Airmen compared to remembering the legacy of his own blood. He expressed the importance of paying homage to these Airmen because of the culture within the weapons community.
“In the weapons community we do not lose many of our brothers and sisters, but over the past few months, we have lost three,” said Lewis. “The weapons community across the Air Force is an extremely close-knit family. Everywhere you go you will be teamed up with two other individuals who normally are culturally different than yourself, and nine out of ten times you will become close with these individuals. When we lose one of our brothers or sisters, it hits a little harder.”
Donned in black to pay tribute to their lost brothers and sisters in arms, the three-person teams competed to load the aircraft with an assigned group of munitions safely and correctly in the least amount of time.
“(These competitions are important because) weapons crews work throughout the year to become a cohesive team and to be the best at their job together,” said Lewis. “These competitions allow the best to be recognized and awarded certain bragging rights above the rest of the crews assigned to the base.”
According to Lewis, while the goal of the competition is to finish in the least amount of time, the weapons crews must put safety first and not cut corners. He explained that although a team may finish their tasks first, it does not mean they will automatically win the competition.
“Each crew member has numerous steps to perform safely and swiftly and must be in sync with their teammates,” explained Lewis. “People commonly misinterpret the competition as a race. I have seen crews load an aircraft in an insanely short amount of time and then lose due to missing inspections or not safely performing the load—in order to win it's all about proficiency, reliability and most importantly safety.”
Although the event held a somber tone and there could only be one winner, both weapons crews put their best foot forward to pay homage to their brother and sisters in arms.