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Airmen lock'n'load at competition

January 14, 2015 (by A1C Luke Kitterman) - The 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hosted the annual weapons load competition January 9, 2015 at Hangar 1 here. The competition consisted of four quarterly winners for 2014 battling head-to-head for the title of Weapons Load Crew of the Year.

SSgt. Michael Nichter, 52nd AMXS weapons load crew chief, goes through a checklist next to an F-16 during a weapons load competition in Hangar 1 at Spangdahlem AB on January 9th, 2015. Nichter was a part of the load team that won the competition last year. [USAF photo by A1C. Luke Kitterman]

"It's a skillful way to enjoy our career field," said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Craig Brandenburg, 52nd Maintenance Group Wing weapons manager. "It gives the Airmen a chance to earn some bragging rights while also enhancing their loading capabilities."

Judges reviewed teams of three on their overall time and accuracy of loading weapons to the wings of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft. The pressure weighing down on the teams to finish in a timely manner reflected feelings they were quite familiar with, said Brandenburg.

"Our career field is evaluated every month to make sure our proficiency stays at a high level," Brandenburg said. "Speed and accuracy are everything in this job, and our Airmen know that."

For one Airman who was a part of the winning team last year, the competition is all about trust.

"There is not really a lot of verbal communication while performing a load," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Nichter, 52nd AMXS weapons load crew chief. "We do a lot of pointing and making eye contact with one other to ensure we are all on the same page. When you work with people long enough, you can just rely on them to do their part of the job without having to use a lot of words."

The day's events also incorporated the second annual "Blood Load," an exhibition match between senior NCOs and a team in the competition. The team of Airmen won against the veteran loaders in a contest that came down to the seconds.

"This year was extremely close, and I'm proud of it," Brandenburg said. "It's a great way for us to get back to our roots. Performing the same tasks and challenges we ask of our Airmen is critical to staying completely in touch with the difficulties of being a weapons load crew member in today's Air Force."

Nichter and his team made it to the championship where they faced off against another loading team. Both teams completed the competition but the winner will not be revealed until later this month at an award ceremony.

"I really want to win again," Nichter said. "It would be a great honor to have back-to-back titles."

Courtesy of 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Additional images:

Weapons Load Crew of the Year trophies await the winner of the weapons load competition in Hangar 1 at Spangdahlem AB on January 9th, 2015. The winners of the competition will be announced later this month at an awards ceremony. [USAF photo by A1C. Luke Kitterman]
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