CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
The sound of lift truck engines roared as Air Commandos from the 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group held the 3rd quarter weapons load crew competition, Dec. 2, at Cannon Air Force Base.
Two three-man crews—one representing the AC-130W Stinger II aircraft and the other the MQ-9 Reaper aircraft—competed for the title of best load crew in an effort to showcase mission readiness to a crowd of weapons loaders, families and distinguished visitors.
Ultimately, the MQ-9 crew came out on top. For Staff Sgt. James Mitchell, 3rd Air Mobility Unit weapons load crew team chief, it was simply doing what he loves.
“I just love to compete,” Mitchell said. “I love loading bombs and missiles. It’s what I do, it’s my job.”
The competition was a way for Mitchell and his crew to maintain the high caliber of weapons loading for the ever-demanding needs of Air Force special operations that can only be attained through teamwork.
“My favorite part was the camaraderie,” Mitchell said. “The unity as a crew and how we can get it done, and work together. A lot of it was just seeing what they were going to do and reacting to what moves they came up with during the load competition.”
Master Sgt. Jeffery Cannon, 27th Special Operations Maintenance Operations Squadron weapons superintendent, related the importance of this competition to real world scenarios downrange.
“The goal was definitely proficiency, reliability and time,” said Cannon. “You want to finish in a timely manner, so if you’re in a combat environment, we get it up as fast as we can so the aircraft can meet its sortie or its mission, and put bombs down where they need to go.”
In addition to showing off his load crew’s technical proficiency, the applauding spectators were icing on the cake for Mitchell.
“I think it’s more for the crowd,” said Mitchell “Just to show them what we do as a load crew, bring them out to see what weapons crews do, what type of munitions we load and what type of capabilities aircraft have. It’s just great to see the crowd come out and cheer for us and all our weapons crews.”
Not only was the competition an opportunity to boost morale and bring load crews together, Mitchell also believes the event sharpened skills required to execute the Air Force Special Operations Command mission.
“This helps show people what we actually do downrange,” said Mitchell. “We’re loading munitions. We’re bringing a lot of bad things to the fight, to ISIS over there, so this shows we hit high value targets with these aircraft.”