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Senior Airman Joshua Rodriguez Weapons loads a 25-pound practice bombs on one of the squadron's A-10 attack planes. To the rear is his supervisor, Staff Sgt. Percival Cabase.

Senior Airman Joshua Rodriguez Weapons loads a 25-pound practice bombs on one of the squadron's A-10 attack planes. To the rear is his supervisor, Staff Sgt. Percival Cabase. (Franklin Fisher / S&S)

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — It’s a bright, hazy Thursday at Osan Air Base and Senior Airman Joshua Rodriguez and the other weapons loaders have their work cut out for them.

Stretching down their squadron’s parking ramp are about a dozen A-10 attack planes that need to be readied for a training mission. The planes belong to the 25th Fighter Squadron, known as the “Assam Draggins;” Rodriguez, hatless and wearing blue coveralls, is a member of its weapons flight.

The squadron, the only A-10 unit in South Korea, specializes in attacking ground targets, especially at close distance to friendly troops.

He and two other weapons loaders, one of them Staff Sgt. Percival Cabase, must hurry from plane to plane, loading each with nine blue, 25-pound training bombs called BDU-33s.

Later that day, the pilots will take off and drop the bombs while practicing a variety of combat missions.

“So they’re incredibly busy with the job, getting the jets turned for the next flying period,” said 1st Lt. Rick Huth, an A-10 pilot.

On other days, the loaders may attach live bombs, Maverick missiles and other weaponry. But Thursday’s focus was to get the small BDU-33s attached properly and on time.

When a BDU-33 hits, it emits white smoke, enabling range scorers and the pilots to gauge where the bombs landed in relation to the target.

“Work from one station to the next,” Cabase, the supervisor, tells Rodriguez. “Do everything across the board.”

Plenty goes into being a good weapons loader, Rodriguez said.

“Attention to detail, knowing what we’re loading … making no mistakes,” he said. “Getting everything up in a timely manner. Make sure everything is loaded the way it’s supposed to be loaded, according to our tech data, and making sure the jets are ready to go … another thing, we want to make sure that we’re using the right tools that are made for the job.”

Two things are key in loading BDU-33s, Cabase said.

“Make sure they’re ‘swayed’ right and make sure they’re carted,” he said. “The two most important things.”

“Swaying” refers to making sure the bomb is attached securely for flight, he said. “Carting” is inserting a small silver explosive cap that detonates and causes the bomb to release when the pilot hits the weapons release button.

“So when they decide to ‘punch off’ it’ll go off,” Cabase said.

When a plane is loaded, Cabase, as supervisor, does a “post-load” inspection.

“From tip to tip, the supervisor has to be sure everything is secured and loaded right, for flight,” he said.

They spend about 10 minutes at each aircraft, then move briskly down the ramp to the next.

“Honestly, without them, we wouldn’t be going anywhere,” said Huth. “Their job is very important to the mission because without them the jet is going to take off and fly, but that’s all it’s going to do.

“Without them loading weapons on the jet, we wouldn’t be able to employ” the A-10’s weapons. “We wouldn’t be able to get the meat of the mission done.”


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