Weapons School Graduates and Patch They Wear
by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alexandria Lee
August 3, 2022
The Weapons School graduate patch worn on the left sleeve of a uniform isn’t handed out to just anyone who walks through the doors of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School. It is a symbol of service members who possess the ability to rise to the top of the heap despite any adversity standing in their path.
U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit pilots from the 509th Bomb Wing assigned to the 325th Weapons School prepare for takeoff at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada on June 6, 2022. Weapons School Integration is a graduate level training program involving students from every WPS unit, giving them a unique experience with large-fore joint operations. The bottom left insert is an image of the Graduate Weapons School patch worn on the uniform. (Image created by USA Patriotism! using U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandria Lee.)
A weapons officer or enlisted specialist not only bears a heavy responsibility with their career choice, they also serve as an advisor to military leaders at all levels, both in uniform and civilian government positions. The reintegration of these graduates back into flying squadrons ultimately increases the unit’s level of excellence and builds on a highly capable and ready force.
The Weapons School in Las Vegas, Nevada, trains these tactical experts and leaders to control and exploit air, space and cyberspace on behalf of the joint force.
Every six months, approximately 130 weapons officers and enlisted specialists graduate as tactical system experts, weapons instructors and leaders of Airmen. The 325th Weapons School works directly with the 509th Bomb Wing and the 131st Bomb Wing to produce two to three B-2 Spirit pilot graduates per class.
“With the support of all these wings, the 325th Weapons School is able to reach the highest weight of effort and highest pay off for the high level of individual we’re building,” said Lt. Col. Marcus Antonini, 325th Weapon’s School Commander. “We are preparing our pilots to support the commander and develop themselves outside of flying. We are producing a valued commodity to commanders and leaders across our joint force.”
Weapons School Integration is a graduate-level exercise conducted as the grand finale of the Weapons School program, giving students a unique experience with large-force joint operations. The integration includes mission planning cells, realistic scenarios, integration between multiple different airframes and in-depth debriefing.
“Our first priority is integration,” said Antonini. “We have every weapons system here from every branch, from the Navy to Space Force. This is a joint endeavor, we don’t do anything alone.”
These lessons not only teach the students tactical skills and exposure to joint assets outside of the B-2, but also experiences with problem solving. Cognitive skills such as problem solving are the cadre's number two priority, Antonini explains. Using these new abilities and learning how to overcome challenges in the national defense strategy provides graduates with leadership skills to prepare them for when they advise a commander on strategic plans. It offers them the opportunity to think outside of the box and experiment with solutions in a training environment.
“Lastly, networking is our final priority,” said Antonini. “We don’t do any of this alone, we want our Airmen to understand the importance of building a network. We need a team to take on advisories with understanding and a variety of perspectives.”
Taking the mantra, "humble, approachable and credible" as their creed, the Weapons School graduates form a fraternity of trusted advisors and problem-solvers that lead the force, and enable integration into combat power, seamlessly alongside those of other military services.
“Two things we tell our students, earn it every day and live by the creed,” said Antonini. “We will never do anything alone, it will always take a team. We want to make sure our pilots live up to those core values and be prepared to answer the nations call.”
Col. Geoffrey Steeves, 509th Operations Group Commander, said the real world application of graduates makes a profound impact on the mission.
“This summer is filled with examples of B-2 Weapons School graduates making an impact on our mission and enabling our wing to execute nuclear operations and global strike anytime, anywhere,” said Steeves. “For example, our 393d Bomb Squadron’s weapons officer developed a comprehensive training plan for the 509th's first-ever bomber task force to Australia.”
The 393d Bomb Squadron uses Agile Combat Employment principles to execute short-notice higher-headquarters missions throughout the Indo-Pacific, continues Steeves. With the extensive skill set our Airmen have gained through their Weapons School education, they are able to employ weapons in unfamiliar bombing ranges and airspace. They learned the ability to extend partnership with our Royal Australian Air Force allies, and to pioneer integration with Australian F-35s, all while given the opportunity to conduct the first-ever B-2 refueling operations with their Australian KC-30A tankers.
These are just a few examples of the graduates taking all the hard work they learned through the rigorous program and putting them into action.
“Simply put, our finest young aviators and intelligence officers aspire to become Weapons Officers,” said Steeves.
These graduates set the standard for excellence in the 509th Operations Group, serving as credible role models to the rest of the crew force while taking on some of the Wing’s hardest challenges, innovating revolutionary tactics, and setting an example for the rest of the community to follow.
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