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Dropping bombs, making history at Combat Hammer

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Airmen from Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., showcased their talent and skills at Combat Hammer, a weapons system evaluation program used to determine the validity of munitions products and processes, March 18 through 22.

In the process, the 160 Airmen helped make history by doing something no other unit has done since the program started in 1985.

"The 482nd dropped more bombs in a single day during Combat Hammer than any other F-16 unit in the Air Force participating in the evaluation, ever," said Lt. Col. Scott Briese, Commander, 482nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

The ability to coordinate 160 Airmen and 12 F-16 fighter jets and turn out a history making day was the result of numerous people working together in various jobs.

"The group of Airmen deployed encompasses a wide range of support staff, mechanical experts, munitions staff, and support staff," said Briese. "These Airmen have been exceptional. They have met every challenge by exceeding expectations and performing whatever jobs needed."

Planning and preparation for the deployment required considering all the needed parts for the mission.

"Coordination for this assignment required preparing Airmen for deployment, scheduling training, transporting equipment and troops, and so much more," said Tech. Sgt. Tara Austin, 482nd Operations Group unit deployment manager.

From preparing the munitions, loading weapons, preparing the jets, flying, and recovering, all 160 Airmen deployed played a role.

"Combat Hammer is an excellent place for aircraft maintenance to hone their skills," said Senior Airman Jose Rocha, 482nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "We're able to ensure the safety of each jet by paying attention to details and consulting technical orders."

While the testing checks the munitions and processes, each experience offers the Airman an opportunity to train.

"As pilots, we are practicing our accuracy," said Maj. Mark Van Brunt, 93rd Operations Squadron Chief of Weapons. "There are specific targets and our job is to hit those targets."

After recovering the aircraft from flying, ensuring the safety requires thoroughly examining all parts.

"I crawl into the intake of the F-16 to check for cracks," said Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Sarabia, 482nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron inspector. "Once inside, I investigate possible scratches or cracks on parts."

Regardless of the job, each Airman played a crucial role in ensuring the success of the mission. From those that keep track of the parts of the aircraft, supply fuel to the jet, fix and sometimes create parts to the munitions crew loading bombs, the crew chiefs launching the jets, and the pilots flying them, every part of the process was crucial to making it work.