148th Fighter Wing Excels at Combat Hammer
By Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka, 148th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 21, 2015
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, UTAH -- Approximately 180 Airmen and Block 50 F-16's from the 148th Fighter Wing, Duluth, Minn. participated in an exercise known as Combat Hammer while at Hill AFB, Utah in early May 2015. Combat Hammer is a Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) that evaluates weapon systems in their entirety.
While the exercise was about a week long for most 148FW Airmen, it was quite a bit longer for those Airmen actually building the bombs and missiles. "Typically, we are one of the first assets to show up at a deployment, said 2nd Lt. Mylii Pukema, 148FW Munitions Officer. We show up about a week before most everyone else, so we can build up the weapons and have them ready when the jets arrive."
"It's a common misconception that weapons come already built, said Pukema. Different weapons have different levels of configuration that has to happen. It can be a lot of detail that goes into configuring a weapon or it can be relatively simple, it just depends on the mission." 148FW Munition's Airmen were evaluated from the time the weapon came out of the box. How they practiced safety and followed tech data during the building of the weapon were key components to the evaluation process.
"An exercise like this provides many different benefits, said Pukema. In the military you are constantly losing experts and having to train new people to fill their spots. Combat Hammer gives the more experienced people a bigger window of time to train and provide guidance. Another added benefit is team building which can be difficult in a typical Guard drill weekend."
"Combat Hammer is a more labor intensive exercise than most due to the amount and different types of weapons we are required to build," said Pukema. 148FW Munitions Airmen built over 100 bombs and missiles while at Combat Hammer, since they were ahead of schedule they even started building weapons for future units.
"I couldn't be happier with our performance, said Pukema. Great crew, highly motivated and loved to be busy. If there was downtime they would do minor repairs to the building just to stay busy."
For Senior Airmen Nathan Windus, a fulltime Munitions Airman with the 148FW, Combat Hammer was an opportunity to work with his traditional team members. "Getting to work with the traditional Guardsmen for more than a drill weekend was a great opportunity to see individual skill sets and who might need additional training, said Windus. It was great the way everyone came together as a team."
The WSEP evaluates the whole Air Force process from the time the munition folks receive the weapons, to building the munitions, getting the weapons out to the flightline and loaded on the aircraft, does the aircraft operate the way it should without having issues, did the pilots use the appropriate tactics and did the weapons perform properly. "We are being evaluated from bomb build-up to weapon employment, said Lt. Col. Nathan Aysta, 148th Fighter Wing Detachment Commander for Combat Hammer. Not only are we being evaluated individually but the numbers from our performance are being combined with other Air Force units that have participated in Combat Hammer to look at the effectiveness of the whole system."
"Over 80 percent of our pilots were first time shooters, meaning they haven't employed weapons before or the weapon types before. Combat Hammer gives our pilots a very realistic opportunity to employ these weapons in a training environment and get the results on how accurate they were in engaging their targets," said Aysta.
"The two biggest benefits from Combat Hammer are training and an objective look at how we are performing from an outside organization, said Aysta. Big summary from the outbrief is that our maintenance and munition folks did well above average and that our pilots performed above average on weapons that they normally train to use."
"It was a class act all around, we again performed to the "Bulldog" standard which for outside organizations is exceeding the normal standard,' said Aysta.