Training in the load barn vital for weapons troops

  • Published
  • By Micah Garbarino
  • 388th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- There is a barn on Hill Air Force Base that houses things weighing thousands of pounds that can maim an untrained person in many ways if they do not move safely and efficiently.

It’s called the “load barn,” and it is owned by the men and women of the 388th Logistics Support Squadron’s Weapons Standardization Flight. They are responsible for training and certifying every Airman in the 388th Fighter Wing who loads munitions onto the F-35A Lightning II.

“When we’re deployed, our loaders get an order from ops, and then the ammo guys will deliver those munitions. It is up to us to get them on the aircraft so they can launch the sortie on time and the weapons can be employed properly,” said Tech. Sgt. Abriel Cagle-Orozco, an aircraft armament technician and trainer. “Usually, this needs to be done as quickly as possible.”  

There are 5,000-pound bombs, there are 2,000-pound bombs, there are smaller, guided bombs, a variety of missiles and 25-mm explosive rounds. Each weapon has its own procedure, its own “play call” checklist for loading.

The loading procedure is done in three-person teams. With the “one” watching over and making calls for the “two” and “three.” It’s a choreographed effort, one that takes repetition, repetition, repetition to gain proficiency as an individual and as a team.

“Anytime you’re working with high explosives, with time constraints and added pressure, you really have to be mindful of the procedure, to slow down in your mind and do things properly,” Cagle-Orozco said.

But the bombs are not the only danger. There are sharp edges, levers, hoists and cradles with pinch and crush points. Move too fast, miss a step, and maybe miss a finger, or worse.

“We take safety very seriously. It’s the number one thing we look for when we grade, then proficiency and speed,” Cagle-Orozco said.

All of the loaders in the fighter generation squadrons (as well as multi-capable Airmen training for agile combat employment) all go through the load barn sessions. The multi-day classes keep the 15-person weapons training team busy.

After their initial certification, each loader in the fighter generation squadrons is required to have a monthly re-certification. If they fail or miss, they can’t load. The weapon standardization flight also makes trips to the flightline to observe live weapons load to ensure safety.

“We have a chance to help people get better, to keep them from mistakes, to keep them safe, and that’s the best part of the job,” Cagle-Orozco said.