Investigation: Weapons Loader Died While Loading from Unbalanced Bomb Rack

Col. Clinton Eichelberger, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, speaks during a fallen warrior memorial ceremony Mar. 23, 2017, in Southwest Asia. SSgt. Alexandria Morrow, 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew chief, died from injuries sustained while performing work duties in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. USAF photo by SSgt. Eboni Reams.

A weapons loader was killed after a bomb rack unit was misaligned and fell during unloading operations in March in the Middle East, an Air Force investigation found.

SSgt. Alexandria Mae Morrow of Dansville, N.Y., was deployed to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing in Southwest Asia when she was killed in the March 22 incident. The wing had performed a “high number of missions” in support of combat operations at the time.

According to the investigation, Morrow and her team were unloading a bomb rack unit with a single GBU-39 Small Diameter Bomb to load on an F15E Strike Eagle. She secured the supporting cradle onto a jammer loader, which was on a setting for a balanced, symmetric load, according to an Air Combat Command release.

A single asymmetric download “was not common” and the rack unit required an alternate setting to keep a center of gravity. When she unstrapped the cradle near the munitions trailer, the unit tipped forward because it was not balanced. Morrow tried to stabilize it, lost her setting and fell. The bomb rack unit fell from the jammer loader, fatally striking her.

Morrow was deployed from the 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

“Staff Sergeant Morrow garnered the profound respect and admiration of all she worked with,” Accident Investigation Board President Col. Brian Moore said in the release. “Her tireless dedication to duty, professionalism, initiative, and constant care for her airmen, particularly in deployed combat operations, were truly an inspiration.”

In a letter to airmen marking three years of war against ISIS, outgoing Air Forces Central Command leader Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian wrote there is a picture of Morrow outside the commander’s office at headquarters US Central Command. The picture reminds him “of her family’s sacrifice” as part of the war.

“These memories forever remind me the stakes are high and the sacrifice real when we step up to the plate in this game,” Harrigian wrote.