28th Munition Squadron efforts solidify Ellis Giant Sword Trophy Win

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Dylan Maher
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

A team of 11 Airmen from the 28th Munitions Squadron contributed to Ellsworth Air Force Base securing the Ellis Giant Sword Trophy for Best Bomber Maintenance, at the 2023 Global Strike Challenge capstone event held at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, November 8, 2023.

Global Strike Challenge is an annual competition between units from Air Force Global Strike Command, Air Combat Command, Air Force Reserve Command, and the Air National Guard, designed to enhance readiness, teamwork and mission pride amongst world premier bombers, intercontinental ballistic missile operations, helicopter operations and security forces.

“Our team wasn’t exclusively bomb assemblers,” said Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Howard, 28th Munition Squadron combat munitions training instructor and operations section chief. “We had members working in storage and delivery of the bomb, so we spent time training those individuals up to a proficient level.”

When 28th MUNS received confirmation that they would be competing in the 2023 Global Strike Challenge with only a month to prepare, they acted promptly and assembled a team with different specialties.

“Proficiency and safety are important factors to us,” said Tech. Sgt. Nathan Zornes, 28th MUNS section chief and team lead. “Individuals with very little experience being placed into a high pace atmosphere like Global Strike Challenge, tends to put them on edge and affects their overall performance.”

The team was assigned tasks designed to measure time management, efficiency, and attention to detail. They started with a timed assembly of a munitions assembly conveyer (MAC), a metal apparatus containing a massive conveyor belt as the centerpiece, serving as a large assembly line for producing and transporting munitions efficiently.

“The MAC build is one of the more dangerous operations in munitions due to the various moving parts combined with the sheer size and weight of those parts,” said Howard. “It’s very easy to become complacent and get injured from the equipment when you’re not practicing safety and attention to detail.”

After setting up the MAC, the 28th MUNS team were subsequently tested on a timed assembly of Guided Bomb Units (GBUs) with electro-mechanical fuses, as well as preparing eight Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile replicas for transport and delivery.

“For bomb assembly, especially with JASSMs, technical proficiency is key,” said Howard. “It’s important for us that we remain familiar with the components and processes necessary to keep missile transport online.”

With every competition, there are setbacks, yet the 28th MUNS team managed to keep their eyes on the prize.

“There were moments where the team had to practice in chemical gear and experience equipment limitations.” said Zornes. “It was the camaraderie and dedication that carried us through and maintain control of those situations.”

The 2023 Ellis Giant Sword Trophy was awarded to recognize multiple aspects of Ellsworth’s bomber maintenance.

“It was a cumulative effort, said Howard. “Knowing we share a piece of that award with loaders, ammo, and maintainers of the flightline feels great.”

The 28th MUNS team continues to use the victory as a teaching moment. Zornes makes it evident that lessons learned from the competition needs to be shared with the next generation of Airmen.

“The goal I give to every Airman who participate in challenges of this scope, is to not walk out of the competition and keep the knowledge to yourself.” said Zornes. “If you’re unwilling to make the Airmen close to you better from those experiences, you’re failing at your job.”