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“Viper” weapon loaders on the line

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford
  • 455th AEW/PA
Before an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft goes on a combat sortie here, Airmen with the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s “Viper” weapons flight ensure the aircraft are armed and ready to complete their combat mission.

They provide aircraft with the weapons needed and make sure that they are fully operational before every F-16 takes off from BAF.

“We make sure the weapons systems work properly and load them up onto the aircraft,” said Tech. Sgt. Harrison Ragin, 455th EAMXS weapons load crew chief. “Without weapons on the aircraft nothing is going to happen; it’s the biggest part of the mission.”

The job the weapons flight performs is critical to the close air support mission, ensuring Fighting Falcon pilots have the right munitions to provide the air cover ground forces need.

“Our team is here to provide weapons loading and maintenance support of the F-16's mission here in Afghanistan,” said Master Sgt. Jason Harrison, 455th EAMXS weapons superintendent. “We test the aircraft to ensure that the munitions will release when needed. We load aircraft with air-to-ground and air-to-air munitions to ensure pilots providing close air support to ground troops have the right tools to destroy enemy targets.”

“The importance is to save lives,” said Harrison. “If the weapons we load malfunction or the aircraft does not work exactly as advertised, our fighters won't be able to provide protection of forces on the ground or to destroy targets.”

Even though the team experiences difficulties in a deployed environment they’ve come together to accomplish the mission here.

“The team we have here is second to none,” said Harrison. “As a mix of three home station units, these Airmen have come together to get the job done right. Most have spent a significant amount of time away from their families, but every time we hear of our weapons being released we know someone on the ground will be able to go home to their family. That makes everything we do worth being here.”