Friday, May 1, 2009

188th Weapons Loading crews labor diligently to complete required training for transition to A-10C

Weapons Loading instructors Master Sgt. Ron Doyal, left, and Master Sgt. Larry Sterling, right, look on as Airman 1st Class Jeremy Polk, Staff Sgt. Joshua Cunningham and Tech Sgt. Cory McCain (crew chief), members of the 188th Fighter
Wing Load Crew No. 11, load an inert GBU-31, 2,000-pound JDAM GPS-guided bomb onto the bomb rack on an A-10C March 9, 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. John C. Easley / 188th Fighter Wing)

By Maj. John C. Easley
188th MXG executive officer

Change is in the air. Just take a stroll around base and one can easily see the 188th Fighter Wing is evolving. From the multiple construction projects to the on-going aircraft conversion from F-16 Falcons to A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthogs," The Flying
Razorbacks are constantly adapting in preparation for the challenges ahead.

The 188th Weapons Loading section has been nearly in a constant state of change.

Beginning in April 2007 with the conversion from the F-16Cs to the A10-A model, Weapons Loading has been training and qualifying to be certified Weapons Loading crews on each of the aircraft.

On Feb. 26, 2008, the 188th inducted its first A-10A into the depot at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to begin the conversion from the A-10A to the A-10C.

The first A-10C arrived on station at Ebbing Air National Guard Base on Sept. 18, 2008. Currently the 188th has 12 A-10Cs on station and nine aircraft still in the conversion process at Hill AFB.

The last of the upgraded aircraft are due to arrive in Fort Smith in May 2009. While the aircraft are arriving and going through the acceptance process, the Weapons Loading crews are busy in the school house here at Ebbing ANGB training to become
fully certified load crews on the A-10C.

A Weapons Loading crew consists of a three-member team, lead by a Weapons Loading crew chief, who is responsible for loading all ordnance on the aircraft.

"The A-10A to A-10C conversion is primarily an avionics upgrade," said Master Sgt. Larry Sterling, 188th Weapons Loading instructor. "The A-10A cockpit was an analog system with dials and buttons; the A-10C cockpit is digital with color displays.

"Moving from the F-16 to the A-10C has been an advantage for our load crews and our Airmen have made the change to the A-10C cockpit seamlessly because of their F-16 experience."

Sterling said the conversion to the A-10C will give the Flying Razorbacks a more lethal weapons system.

"With the conversion to the A-10C, we are going from dumb bombs to smart bombs [Laser and GPS guided] capability," Sterling said. "The fuses are going from Vietnam-era mechanical to modern electrical fuses, which give the pilots more options in munitions delivery."

All 11 load crews will spend four days training on the A-10Cs, conducting functional checks, loading and downloading all the primary and support munitions utilized in the A-10C mission.

"The whole business of the A-10 is dropping bombs and shooting bullets," said Lt. Col. James Krimmel, 188th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "Without qualified load crews we can't support the mission on the ground."

Krimmel also discussed the recent Unit Compliance Inspection.

"Master Sgt. Sterling was identified by the ACC IG team having the 'Best Seen to Date' Weapons Load Crew Standardization program," Krimmel said. "The IG further stated that this program should be mirrored by all units in the Air Combat Command."

The status of the load crews has a direct effect on the Combat Readiness (C) rating of the 188th. Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Pope, 188th Weapons manager, reports the status of the load crews monthly to the National Guard Bureau. The current "C" rating
of any unit is classified information.

In a recent expanded maintenance meeting, Pope reported that the majority of load crews at the 188th were fully certified. Additional load crews began training at night, beginning March 9, 2009.

"Our traditional Guardsmen are giving up their time after school or work," Pope said. "They train through the night to support the 188th mission. Without their dedication we wouldn't be ready for the Tactics deployment to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base [Ariz.] this summer."

Pope said with the current pace, he expects all load crews will be fully certified long before the deployment.

Staff Sgt. Joshua Cunningham, left, and Tech Sgt. Cory McCain, right, complete the final checklist items after loading an inert GBU-31, 2,000-pound JDAM GPS-guided bomb onto the bomb rack on an A-10C while Tech Sgt. Michael Aponte,
a 188th Weapons Loading instructor, observes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. John C. Easley / 188th Fighter Wing)

(This news article was published in the 188th Fighter Wing's newspaper The Flying Razorback, April 2009 public online PDF issue. Source)

Note: The 188th Fighter Wing's public website is still outdated.

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