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Lethal competition: Bomber maintainers showcase skills on the flightline

Team Dyess competes in Global Strike Challenge

Staff Sgt. Calib Burkholder, left, 7th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron team member, and Staff Sgt. Edward Garcia, 7th AMXS team chief, slap hands to signal when they have completed a task while loading an inert bomb into a B-1B Lancer at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas Aug. 14, 2019. During the Air Force Global Strike Challenge, each team is graded on accuracy, speed and safety while building inert munitions and loading inert bombs onto a B-1. (U.S Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Mercedes Porter)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series covering the competition categories of Global Strike Challenge.

Bomber maintainers and munitions crews from throughout Air Force Global Strike Command competed over the summer to determine which maintenance crews and bomber load teams are the “best of the best” in the command during the seventh Global Strike Challenge competition.

Global Strike Challenge is designed to enhance readiness, lethality, teamwork, mission pride, competitive spirit and recognize superior performers in weapons systems and technical expertise. The wings will find out who is named the best at the competition’s culminating event later this month.

“Overall, the Global Strike Competition measures mission proficiency of teams gained through dedicated study and training,” said Senior Master Sgt. Shaun Hardy, Global Strike Challenge Maintenance Competition team lead. “Teams obtain many tangible benefits from intensive preparation and spirited competition, all of which improve their readiness, responsiveness and effectiveness in meeting AFGSC missions.”

For the maintenance portion of the competition, crew chief teams were evaluated on aircraft preflight checks, Air Force technical orders, Integrated Maintenance Data System (IMDS) comparison and aircraft discrepancy history. At nuclear wings, crew chief teams were evaluated on specific nuclear maintenance procedures.

Staff Sgt. Alexanders Noland, a B-1B dedicated crew chief with the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, was selected by his leadership to compete.

“My part in the competition consisted of preflighting an aircraft by making sure all required servicing was in limits and overall making sure the aircraft was flyable,” he said. “I also had to ensure the aircraft forms and IMDS discrepancies were flyable by coordinating with other specialists to get discrepancies fixed, and better the health of the aircraft.”

Noland said it was an honor to compete in Global Strike Challenge.

“Being selected for the challenge was an amazing thing to hear and feel because seeing mentors and friends of mine in the past be up for the challenge, it was something I wanted to do and follow in their footsteps,” Noland said. “The competition shows our readiness and our ability to generate safe and reliable aircraft at a moment’s notice. Granted we had time to plan everything out for the challenge, but we are still able to perform and produce flyable aircraft regardless of how much time we have.”

For weapons load teams, Global Strike Challenge was an opportunity for them to demonstrate the high level of proficiency load crews possess, and inspire esprit de corps among the maintenance and munitions community as a whole. Teams were evaluated on a conventional load, and nuclear wings were also evaluated on a nuclear upload.

“We were hand selected. My crew was chosen because we are the best at what we do and are great at working with each other,” said Staff Sgt. Edward Garcia, a B-1B weapons load crew chief with the 7th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. “Our competition was weapons loading on the B-1s. I feel proud of myself and my crew members because being selected for this means we are held to a high standard and we hold that standard.”

Garcia said that Global Strike Challenge helps improve the crews all around.

“This competition is so you can show who is the best. If you try to better yourself to win the competition, then win or lose, you still have improved your skills and capabilities, which in turn makes you much more ready for real-world situations,” he said.

Teams were also evaluated on things like safety, tools, equipment and technical orders, and the team’s ability to assess and correct a problem quickly and in accordance with maintenance directives.

As the world situation continues to evolve, so does Global Strike Challenge, setting objectives that make AFGSC Airmen more lethal and ready.

“As our global environment has changed, so too has the purpose and scope of the competition, to ensure that our ‘Strikers’ are ready to answer the call anytime and anywhere,” Hardy said.