Airman prepare for gunship’s arrival

USAF photo: Airman 1st Class Evelyn Chavez Airman Frank Lauria, of the 27th Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight, hands a 105 mm cannon round to an aerial gunner inside a 16th Special Operations Squadron AC-130H Spectre gunship while training.

By Senior Airman Thomas Trower: 27th SOW Public Affairs

The 27th Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight completed new training on the Combat Aircraft Parking Area Feb. 6 to ensure they are ready when additional aircraft arrive.

Twenty-six airmen make up the flight that is responsible for supplying live and training ammunition to special operations aircraft flying here, said Maj. Rolando Alejo, the munitions flight weapons officer.

The unit expects to grow to 57 personnel with the addition of new units, including the 16th Special Operations Squadron that flies AC-130H Spectre gunships, here, said Alejo. New aircraft means new types of ammunition on base, and airmen here are expected to be ready to load these aircraft as soon as they touch ground.

Because the gunships are arriving here in late spring and new personnel will be responsible for loading the aircraft, Air Force Special Operations Command officials took this opportunity to implement standardized routines to make sure everybody is operating the same way, said Lt. Col. Dwight Davis, 16th Special Operations Squadron, Detachment 1, commander. During this training opportunity, individuals from the 16 SOS, 19th Special Operations Squadron and the Air Force Special Operations Training Center took observed the procedures to create a formal training program. The overall goal is to ensure that no matter which aerial gunner or munitions airman is on shift, he or she will know exactly how to load the ammunition in an expedited way, he said.

“We are out here today to teach these guys how to transfer ammunition from their trailer into the gunner’s hands,” the colonel said. “Normally, when we load, there are two engines running and it is pitch black. The engines create strong winds and the darkness impairs vision. We are doing this training without running engines and during the daytime as an opportunity to give instruction.”

The training syllabus may seem simple to many people: Move ammunition from trailer into aircraft. However, specific procedures must be adhered to while the munitions personnel deliver live 105 mm and 40 mm cannon ammunition into the hands of aerial gunners onboard the 16 SOS gunship visiting here from its current home at Hurlburt Field, Fla. Each maintainer lifted several of the 38-pound, 105 mm shells and a can or two of 40 mm ammunition approximately six feet off the ground into the side of the aircraft.

“We want to minimize the time a round is out in the open, said Col. Davis. “This is the most dangerous time.”

“This is a controlled environment to train and streamline the loading process,” said Maj. Alejo. “We want to ensure integration success with the new units. My airmen did a great job.”

These skills will be used, not only at Cannon, but during overseas deployments as well, said Airman 1st Class Johnathan Cook, an aerial gunner with 16 SOS, Det. 1. “Precision is critical for faster employment when we need to quickly get on target,” he added.