Story by A1C Janae Capuno on 01/07/2019Pilots can't take off without a working aircraft, and weapon systems officers can't fight empty handed.
During Green Flag West, maintainers and munitions Airmen tested their ability to get the F-15E Strike Eagles fully loaded and in the skies.
"Our pilots will get into the jet, most of them loaded with munitions, they'll go out there and provide mission support for [tactical air control party members] that call in air support," said Airman 1st Class Connor Batton, 391st Fighter Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief. "Our pilots will show up and get the job done."
Primarily, fighter pilots use GPS- guided munitions during combat operations overseas.
"We were able to work with Air Combat Command and acquire a large number of GPS-guided weapons," said Lt. Col. Robert Olvis, 391st Fighter Squadron commander. "Not only are they GPS-guided weapons, but they are live munitions."
Working with live munitions give a realistic training outlook for the pilots and WSOs.
In order to carry munitions effectively, the bird needs to be properly maintained.
"For launch sequences, what crew chiefs do is they make sure that there's fluids in the jet, so if there's an emergency the pilots can get back safely," Batton explained. "We check brakes to make sure they don't have to pull the resting hook in the back. That's a bad day."
Fluids like jet fuel and tail hooks that can help an aircraft perform an emergency stop are crucial for crew chiefs to check before every flight.
Maintenance isn't the only important piece, munition flights provide the bang for the Air Force's buck'.
The 366th Equipment Management Squadron uses an ammunitions loading system to supply 20 millimeter rounds to the F-15E Strike Eagle for this exercise.
Tech. Sgt. Matthew Close, 366th Equipment Maintenance Squadron production supervisor, stated that the ammunitions loading system can be fully loaded in under ten minutes.
Crews are used to working with three to four people back at MHAFB, Airman 1st Class Dominic Benoit, 366th EMS conventional crew member, described how it is an opportunity to be working with approximately 20 more Airmen at Nellis Air Force Base.
"When people come to Mountain Home to participate in their own exercises, they do their own thing,"
said Benoit. "Since we got here, they told us we were going to be entirely integrated with the ammunitions team here at Nellis. Whatever they're doing that day, we are doing that day."
After munitions are prepped and loaded into the F-15, the pilot and WSO are able to fly out to the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin., California and become more proficient in Close-Air-Support operations.
Staff Sgt. Michael Pincheira, 12th Combat Training Squadron joint terminal attack controller instructor at NTC, explained the benefits working with the Strike Eagle.
"The F-15E Strike Eagle carries a very specific munition called the GBU-39, which is a stand-off munition that personally we love as JTACs," said Pincheira. "It helps us accomplish our mission from a long ways away. We can strike targets and not have to worry about it. Also, the F-15s are fast and there's two people in the bird, so I know I can talk to the WSO while the other guy is flying."
Being able to train with these munitions is a privilege for both the JTACs and the pilots and it wouldn't be possible without munitions crew members and maintenance crew chiefs who support the mission.
Batton tells a story about being able to talk with an aircrew member about his mission before he launched and is able to see why being a crew chief is important.
"He gave me a handshake and I sent them on their way," Batton said. "Pilots are pretty pumped to be doing this, they freaking love their job."