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For first time in several years, Team Eielson brings back load competition between F-35 and F-16 crews

Staff Sgt. Rachelle Bellini, Senior Airman Ruben Moreno, and Senior Airman Nathan Furr, 18th Munitions Unit load crew competition winners stand with their trophy Jan. 8, 2021, on Eielson AFB, Alaska. Every three months there’s a load crew competition and the winners of the quarterly challenges will face off at an annual competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

Staff Sgt. Rachelle Bellini, Senior Airman Ruben Moreno, and Senior Airman Nathan Furr, 18th Munitions Unit load crew competition winners stand with their trophy Jan. 8, 2021, on Eielson AFB, Alaska. Every three months there’s a load crew competition and the winners of the quarterly challenges will face off at an annual competition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

Two load crews prepare to test their abilities in a load crew competition, Jan. 8, 2021, on Eielson AFB, Alaska. The left team represented the new 356th Maintenance Unit and the right team represented the 18th Maintenance Unit and they claimed victory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

Two load crews prepare to test their abilities in a load crew competition, Jan. 8, 2021, on Eielson AFB, Alaska. The left team represented the new 356th Maintenance Unit and the right team represented the 18th Maintenance Unit and they claimed victory. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

ad crew competition leaders and team members from the 354th Fighter Wing talk before the event Jan. 8, 2021, on Eielson AFB, Alaska. The load crew competition pitted one F-35A Lightning II and one F-16 Fighting Falcon load crew to arm their aircraft with four munitions as quickly and accurately as possible. Upon completion, the teams are evaluated on their accuracy and speed and a winner is declared. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

ad crew competition leaders and team members from the 354th Fighter Wing talk before the event Jan. 8, 2021, on Eielson AFB, Alaska. The load crew competition pitted one F-35A Lightning II and one F-16 Fighting Falcon load crew to arm their aircraft with four munitions as quickly and accurately as possible. Upon completion, the teams are evaluated on their accuracy and speed and a winner is declared. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, ALASKA --

Team Eielson’s 354th Maintenance Group recently held its first quarter load crew competition, Jan. 8, 2021.

This is the first time the competition is being held in several years since the return of uniformed service.

“It has been five or six years since this event was held by military members,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Adam Selmon, a 354th Maintenance Group loading standardization crew member. “Before today, it was run and organized by a civilian unit.”

The two competing teams were from the 355th and the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

“Teams are chosen based on their load stats, their monthly load performance and flightline performance,” said Selmon. “These crews load day in and day out on the flightline and then they come down to us once a month where we gather the information that is used in the team selection process.”

Once chosen, the teams go head to head in an intense load competition consisting of various tasks designed to test their job knowledge and skills.

“After the crews are identified, they will be given a written test, be given a uniform inspection, a toolbox inspection done by Quality Assurance and the physical loading portion where we evaluate their aircraft and munitions preparation and loading,” explained Selmon. “Each team starts with 1,000 points and lose points for every deduction they have.”

This opportunity allows Airmen to work side by side with their peers and interact with various skill levels and knowledge.

In the maintenance world, being selected to be part of the load crew competition is something all Airmen strive for.

“This competition allows new Airmen to see a goal and work towards it and watching these load crews compete in front of the entire squadron gives them the drive needed to perform at the best level they can,” said Selmon. “They can perfect their craft and become proficient in hopes of being chosen.”

A spot in the competition isn’t casually handed to a crew, it is earned through consistent performance, teamwork and dedication to the mission.

“We practice every day,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Rachelle Bellini, 18th AMU, weapons team crew chief. “We must make sure we understand each other’s movements and work as a team. No matter what happens, we just go out there, work together and get the job done.”

Although this is a friendly competition, there is a lot of value that an Airman can take away after having competed or watched something like this.

“I hope participants are able to get a newfound sense of purpose and understand the importance behind their job,” said Selmon. “At the end of the day, we are able to do our jobs efficiently and safely. For example, if the F-35s go downrange, teams must be able to do their jobs quickly and proficiently to get munitions on the aircraft so that it can support the battlefield.”

Selmon also added that for the F-16s, it is important because the mission that they provide is very unique in terms of making our Air Force and allies better and more trained for air-to-air combat.

This year’s winning team was the 18th AMU.

“I think everyone back at my shop is going to want to be in the same shoes that my team and I are in right now,” said Bellini. “This will just make us work even harder to be able to get chosen again and take home the win next year.”                         

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