Weapons loaders arm F-16s during exercise Beverly Sunrise
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Wrenches turn in a lightning-quick fashion as a group of Airmen, cloaked from head-to-toe in cold weather gear, meticulously arrange a selection of armaments onto an awaiting F-16 Fighting Falcon.
As the flurry of heavy snow falls around them, faces numb, and their 12-hour work bears its fruit - the awaiting aircraft is now armed with the firepower necessary to eradicate any potential foe unlucky enough to be on the receiving end of their target.
"We're manned for war contingencies where jets land; we turn each sortie then send it immediately back out," said Master Sgt. Lucian Williamson, the 35th Maintenance Group weapons standardization superintendent. "The F-16 is a multi-role fighter, so we have to be ready for any type of weapons load. Our jets are capable of fighting offensively and posturing defensively, as well as executing air-to-air and air-to-ground missions."
The mission of the 35th Fighter Wing is the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, and it is the only wing dedicated to SEAD in the Pacific Air Forces. With the largest area of responsibility of any Air Force major command, PACAF is responsible for more than 100 million square miles.
The weapons section's most recent challenge was mobilizing for Beverly Sunrise 16-03, an operational readiness exercise designed to test the 35th FW's mission capabilities and readiness.
Although the name of the game is the same, the rules change a bit during these OREs - speed becomes the primary objective as Misawa's F-16s can be called upon at a moment's notice to forward deploy to various areas of responsibility.
"During these exercises, our Airmen are provided the armaments delivered to their workstations on the flightline," said Tech Sgt. Patrick Connell, a 35th MXG load standardization crew member. "Their mission is to then recover the aircraft, arm it as quickly and efficiently as possible, and send it on its way again."
In a process that requires wingmen to work in perfect synchronization, loading armaments becomes a work of art for the 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airmen. These load crews are made up of inseparable three-member teams who work together to arm a jet with its entire weapon set for each flight.
"The weapons career field is one where you must rely very strongly on your wingmen," said Senior Airman Darious Furlow, a 35th AMXS load crew member who's been working with F-16s for more than four years. "Every step we make has to be done with the help of at least two other Airmen."
With Beverly Sunrise pushing these Airmen to their limits, they are reminded of both their importance to the Wild Weasel mission and adherence to the Air Force's primary mission.
"Our weapons Airmen play a pivotal role in the Air Force mission," said Williamson. "Their hard work and dedication allows the F-16 to 'fly, fight and win.'"