By Air Force Senior Airman Damon Kasberg, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Sept. 14, 2017 — The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter aircraft designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. An array of avionics and electronics systems gives it the capability to fight at low altitude, day or night, and in all weather.
But without weapons, this highly-capable aircraft couldn’t bring the fight needed throughout Southwest Asia to support Operation Inherent Resolve.
The 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron turns this aircraft into a force to be reckoned with by arming it to the teeth with a variety of munitions.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Dominique Tanner, a member of the 332nd’s weapons load crew chief said it best: “We bring the lethality to the aircraft.”
But bringing lethality means more to these airmen than giving it the capability to eliminate targets.
“Most of our careers we train and don’t get to see the fruits of our labor,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Michael Robinson, the 332nd’sweapons flight chief. “Being here means everything we’ve trained for -- everything we’ve learned and all the sacrifices we’ve made are worth it.”
Robinson added, “There are bad guys on the ground trying to harm good people.” Our pilots have the ability to stop them and we help make that possible by putting munitions on the aircraft and maintaining the weapons systems.
Knowing lives are in their hands, the weapons crew members focus on every detail of the job. Small processes done incorrectly can cause a mission to fail.
The weapons crew focuses on every detail of the job, instilling trust and confidence within the aircrew whose lives are in their hands.
“Each crew goes through weapons standardization before they go on the line,” Tanner said. “Every month, they have to stay certified on certain munitions in order to load bombs out here. We get everything done correctly; down to the fine detail to make sure our aircrews are able to get the bombs on target, every time. The smallest screw out of place can have catastrophic consequences.”
Loading and offloading munitions is a constant process for the 332nd, as aircraft fly sorties on a 24-hour schedule. The weapons and ammunition flights work together to keep the aircraft armed with reliable missiles, bombs and flares.
“We have a really good relationship with the ammo builders,” Tanner said. “As soon as the aircraft drops we have to reload it. That involves us getting with the builders to make sure they bring out the right types of munitions and make sure they’re all serviceable prior to putting them on the aircraft. They help us move the munitions as fast as possible so we can turn the aircraft around to make that next sortie effective.”