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28th AMXS weapons crew ready to lock and load

  • Published
  • By Airman Sadie Colbert
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
There is a dedicated group of Airmen whose mission is to load the vast array of munitions onto base B-1 bombers. They bring the boom to the B-1 with training to ensure maximum mission effectiveness.

The 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron works on a 24-hour rotation schedule split between three shifts - days, swings and mids - with weapons loaders spending up to 10 hours at any given time loading munitions for Ellsworth's diverse training scenarios.

"[Ellsworth's] mission is to fly the B-1," said Staff Sgt. Gerald Borja, 28th AMXS weapons load crew chief. "Without AMXS, [Ellsworth] wouldn't be able to meet the mission requirement."

Trained munitions personnel support 27 B-1 bombers with conventional munitions and maintain more than 1,600 munition line items, 30 conventional bomb modules and 36 conventional rotary launchers.

In order to become proficient in their career field, Airmen go through specialized training and evaluations to ensure they know how to properly load bombs in a safe and timely manner.

"I don't want someone coming straight out of technical school, not knowing or receiving the training on how to load , to go straight to loading," Borja said.

"There are a lot of warnings, cautions and notes that we have to abide by before taking someone out to load."

When individuals first arrive to Ellsworth, they go through initial certification, consisting of approximately two weeks of walkthroughs on loading the B-1.

Borja believes the training is beneficial to the mission and plays a crucial role in the weapons flight.

"The training received and experience shared has prepared me to be an effective [munitions loader]," said Airman 1st Class Kyle Berchem, 28th AMXS weapons load crew member.

Once the initial certification is complete, evaluations are conducted to show the flight is current on the most recent certifications and can load within the time limit. If the limit is exceeded, the evaluation is redone until it is accomplished within time constraints.

While timing is important when it comes to loading weapons, safety always comes first.

"Everything we do works around safety because we work with bombs," said Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Diana, 28th AMXS weapons expeditor. "They blow up. You need to know your safety standards because each bomb has a withdrawal distance, where you might have to go 300 feet or 4,000 feet if there is an issue with the bomb. It's to protect us and our people."

As a safety precaution, Borja explains team leads try to send the minimum number of technicians, four, to load bombs in an effort to keep the rest of the flight safe if an evacuation were to occur.

Additionally, while each Airman has an emergency action checklist they must follow for safety, there are more hazards they must be aware of that can pose a problem.

Airmen are trained on hand placement, awareness of sharp objects inside the bay and checking for slipping hazards underneath the aircraft, Borja said.

Not only does training help Airmen stay knowledgeable on loading the B-1, it also helps them to properly react to situations they might encounter downrange.

"Training gives the foundation and structure to be able to execute the mission under pressure," Diana said. "When you get in a situation and you're under stress, you'll know what you have to do beforehand so it's not a surprise [because] you're in a new environment."

The 28th AMXS weapons crew plays an important role in accomplishing Ellsworth's mission. Without the flight's ability to load the B-1 bomber safely and accurately, the mission would be impossible to achieve.

"The feeling you get when you watch the news and see your direct contributions is amazing and makes any hardship worthwhile," Berchem said.