NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
Weapons troops from the 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit enabled joint force training during Green Flag-West 17-03, Jan. 13-27 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.
GFW, an air-land combat integration exercise, provided these Airmen with a rare opportunity to put their home station training to use by allowing them to load live munitions.
“We don’t see these bombs all the time,” said Staff Sgt. Tayrell Washington, 74th AMU weapons load team chief. “This gives them an opportunity to get used to working around live weapons and break some of the fear that comes with it. Some new guys get nervous working around live munitions, but this makes them more comfortable. Some of these guys are seeing live versions of these bombs for the first time, and I know when I was coming up exercises like this really helped me.”
Going to Nellis for the exercise means the A-10s can drop large, live munitions, which is a rare privilege for both the pilots and the Airmen who load them on aircraft.
“We’re obviously here at Green Flag for the pilots,” said Washington. “The pilots need to get training directly with the Army as far as guiding in bombs and hitting targets. For us weapons troops though, we get a lot of training out of it too, by loading whatever different weapons the mission calls for.”
Airman First Class Carlos Quintanilla, 74th AMU weapons load team member, is one of the Airmen benefiting from the exercise, as he is new to the Air Force and has never deployed.
“We don't get to load all this every day, so something like Green Flag is great for the experience,” Quintanilla said. “Once we go downrange, it’s something that we already know how do.
“I know how to load it, I know the proper steps to activate and deactivate the bomb, carefully, and I know if something goes wrong, what type of precautions I should take,” Quintanilla said.
Among these weapons are the Mark 82 and 84 general purpose bombs, as well as the 500 pound GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided bomb, all three of which are used extensively to eliminate targets downrange.
“We tend to be a lot more careful,” Washington said. “It’s not that we cut corners when we’re loading inert weapons, but it’s just a different kind of feeling knowing this bomb can create a very large explosion … so we go a lot slower and just tend to take a little extra caution when we’re throwing these types of munitions up.”
In theory, it should be the same process said Airman First Class Connor McDonald, a fellow 74th AMU weapons load team member.
“The way we’re trained is there is no difference,” said McDonald. “We treat everything like a live weapon. Here it’s a little more serious, I know if that goes off it’s going to be a little more problematic than if a cement [inert bomb] drops on the ground, but we have to treat everything the same. That’s just how weapons does it, that’s how we’re trained.”
Ultimately, training at Green Flag-West left the weapons Airmen who participated that much more prepared to join the fight overseas.
“No matter where or when they go, they should still be set up for success,” said Washington. They'll be able to accomplish what they need to accomplish in the right, safe way. Seeing them here makes me confident they’re ready to perform downrange.”