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Weapons Loaders become first nuclear certified crew in AFRC

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Greg Steele
  • 307th Bomb Wing
The Air Force Reserve reached a milestone in June, when members of the 707th Maintenance Squadron became the command's first certified nuclear weapons load crew on the B-52H Stratofortress.

The 707th MXS is a classic associate unit with the 2nd Bomb Wing here., and supports the 343rd Bomb Squadron, which is an AFRC nuclear and conventional certified bomb unit.

"When the certification process first began, I didn't know what to expect, but knew we were looking at a long training period," said Master Sgt. James Hudson, 707 MXS, weapons load crew team chief. The load training, which normally takes a crew eight weeks to complete was completed in half that time by Hudson and his crew.

"We were in training for four weeks total, which is a testament to how hard my crew worked and studied for each and every loading operation," said Hudson. Their load crews are comprised of four individuals, all Air Reserve Technicians, each having their own specific tasks during a weapons loading operation, which have to be accomplished in a specific order from start to finish.

"My job is to operate the MHU-196 Munitions Handling Trailer, which in itself isn't difficult, but depending on the load position, the directional controls can be reversed so that left is right and forward is back," said Senior Airman Erin Bernik, WLC team member. "You really have to be on top of your game to be accurate and safe."

The MHU-196 is used to load nuclear weapons both in the bomb bay and on the wings of a B-52. It is hydraulically operated and has a lifting capacity of 40,000 pounds.

"An external pylon with six Air Launched Cruise Missiles loaded on it weighs approximately 30,000 pounds," said Tech. Sgt. Thomas Richey, 2nd Maintenance Group Loading Standardization Crew team chief. "Our job as LSC is to evaluate and ensure the load crews are fully trained and capable of successfully performing the loading tasks within the set parameters and time limits."

An example of the evaluation parameters that the 707 MXS weapons loaders had to meet during an ALCM external load certification was a maximum upload time limit of 95 minutes. This load could have no more than three technical write-ups and zero safety violations allowed per crew member.

"Nuclear certification is much more intense than conventional certification," said Hudson. Mainly because as the U.S. nuclear arsenal gets smaller and the diversity of states increases, the resilience and flexibility inherent to our nuclear Triad becomes even more important.

"Loading nuclear weapons in any capacity is a tremendous responsibility," said Bernik. "I'm very proud and excited to be a part of the first nuclear certified load crew in the AFRC."

According to Chief Master Sgt. Richard Young, 707 MXS superintendent, the barriers that have been broken by the 2nd Bomb Wing in certifying an all reserve nuclear load crew are immeasurable and signify that if given the chance, our reservists can integrate into just about all areas of the Air Force mission.