Story and video by Airman 1st Class Natalie Fiorilli, 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
“These aircraft wouldn’t be AC-130Js without weapons.”
That’s how weapons load crew Airmen of the 1st Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, describe the importance of their job.
To put it simply, weapons load crews are responsible for loading and maintaining the weapons systems of an aircraft. For crews assigned to the 4th and 73rd Aircraft Maintenance Units at Hurlburt Field, this means working with the AC-130J Ghostrider.
A highly modified aircraft, the AC-130J is capable of performing close air support, air interdiction and armed reconnaissance missions. Unique to this gunship in particular, the AC-130J features a Precision Strike Package, or PSP, that includes trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons.
“It’s a lot of maintenance – making sure equipment is up and running, and then of course, we do the loading portion as well,” explained Staff Sgt. Mark Carrico, a weapons load crew member with the 73rd AMU.
A typical weapons load crew consists of three individuals, and each person is responsible for a specific role.
One, a noncommissioned officer, serves as a supervisor for the operation, and runs a checklist to ensure safety and efficiency. The other two Airmen work to configure the bomb rack for the weapons system and prepare the munition.
Airman 1st Class Trevor Moscrip, a weapons load crew member with the 4th AMU, noted the importance of being able to work quickly and efficiently.
“If something happens and there needs to be a plane loaded with bombs and bullets, they can be up in a minimal amount of time,” said Moscrip.
To ensure proficiency, weapons load crews with the 1st SOW are evaluated on their skills bi-monthly. Additionally, a competition between aircraft maintenance units takes place every quarter to showcase the top-performing teams.
Earlier this month, teams from the 4th AMU and 73rd AMU competed to determine the top weapons load crew for the fourth quarter of 2021.
The competition consisted of a dress and appearance inspection, a written comprehensive test and a tool kit inspection. Afterward, each team was tasked with loading a small diameter bomb carriage system onto the wing of an AC-130J.
Admittedly, the event was “nerve-wracking” for Moscrip and teammate, Airman 1st Class Kristina Fields, as they are both new to the base and the career field.
However, both Airmen said that weapons load crews share a unique bond and the job is like no other.
“I like it for our atmosphere and camaraderie,” said Fields.
And, she added, trust is key.
“Your crew is like your family.”