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Load crews at Lakenheath compete for best of the best

Airmen of the 48th Maintenance Group load ammunition onto an F-15E Strike Eagle during the annual weapons load crew competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.

WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES

By WILLIAM HOWARD | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 25, 2017

RAF LAKENHEATH, England — Classic rock music blasted throughout the hangar as airmen from the 48th Maintenance Group vied for top honors during the annual weapons load crew competition here on Wednesday.

“This is a way to enhance morale and increase pride in unit, crew and squadron while at the same time training in critical combat skills,” the unit’s commander, Col. Brian Stuart said. “Another key factor is it gives younger airmen a role model. If you want to be the best of the best, this is what it looks like.”

Three-member crews representing the 492nd, 493rd and 494th Aircraft Maintenance Units raced against one another loading massive munitions onto F-15C Eagle and F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft. While doing so, they received a score based on their military bearing, technical knowledge and tool-kit inspection.

Weapons Standardization members evaluated the crews during the competition.

“We make sure that everything was loaded correctly, on the right settings and loaded safely and reliably,” said Tech Sgt. Scott Christen. “All of the crews are vetted by their units before they compete.”

The winning crew earns basewide bragging rights, individual awards and a victory trophy.

“It’s all about competition really, about seeing who’s the best,” said Airman 1st Class Troy Sharp, weapons load crewmember, 494th AMU. “This is my first experience, and I got to say that I love it. I love the thrill, the adrenaline and the fun of it all.”

This year’s winning load crews is to be announced during the maintenance professional of the year banquet in March.

howard.william@stripes.com

A weapons load crew team member from the 48th Maintenance Group loads ammunition onto an F-15C Eagle during the annual weapons load crew competition at RAF Lakenheath, England, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017.
WILLIAM HOWARD/STARS AND STRIPES

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