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The End of a Generation: 40 Years of Service

End of a Generation

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Cramer, a weapons loader assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, poses for a photo in front of the 180th Gun Services doors at the 180th Fighter Wing, Mar. 9, 2020. Cramer is retiring from the U.S. Air Force with more than 40 years of service. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kregg York)

End of a Generation

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Cramer, a weapons loader assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, loads a training bomb onto an F-16 fighter jet during exercise Green Flag-West at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 14, 2020. Green Flag-West is a realistic, Air-to-Surface, joint training exercise designed to improve interoperability between aircraft while supporting ground troops by allowing U.S. military branches, as well as other NATO and allied nations, an opportunity to work together, as they would in military operations around the world. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kregg York)

End of a Generation

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Cramer, a weapons loader assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, loads a training bomb onto an F-16 fighter jet during exercise Green Flag-West at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 14, 2020. Green Flag-West is a realistic, Air-to-Surface, joint training exercise designed to improve interoperability between aircraft while supporting ground troops by allowing U.S. military branches, as well as other NATO and allied nations, an opportunity to work together, as they would in military operations around the world. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kregg York)

End of a Generation

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Cramer, a weapons loader assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, readies a training bomb for transport to an F-16 fighter jet during exercise Green Flag-West at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 14, 2020. Green Flag-West is a realistic, Air-to-Surface, joint training exercise designed to improve interoperability between aircraft while supporting ground troops by allowing U.S. military branches, as well as other NATO and allied nations, an opportunity to work together, as they would in military operations around the world. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kregg York)

End of a Generation

U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Mark Cramer and Senior Airman Tyler Greenawalt, weapons loaders assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing, transport a training bomb to an F-16 fighter jet during exercise Green Flag-West at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, Feb. 14, 2020. Green Flag-West is a realistic, Air-to-Surface, joint training exercise designed to improve interoperability between aircraft while supporting ground troops by allowing U.S. military branches, as well as other NATO and allied nations, an opportunity to work together, as they would in military operations around the world. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Kregg York)

SWANTON, Ohio --

Master Sgt. Mark Cramer has been in the Air Force for more than 40 years, enlisting in 1978. Jimmy Carter was in office, a gallon of gas was 63 cents and the first Garfield comic was published.

“I am probably the oldest certified weapons crew chief at 59 years old.”

Cramer is a weapons loader assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing. But, he’s not just any weapons loader. He is one of the oldest weapons loaders in the entire Air Force.

“Normally, someone of my age is in a supervisory position,” Cramer said. “Less hands-on, and more office work.”

While a supervisory position might suit some people, Cramer would rather keep working with his hands.

“I really enjoy working around the aircraft,” Cramer said. “It’s a lot of fun, especially when the weather is good. There’s not so many personnel issues to deal with.”

As a weapons loader, Cramer makes sure that the weapons systems on the aircraft are in proper working order and ready for the pilots to complete their missions. Being a weapons loader can be strenuous at times, usually making it easier for younger Airmen, but Cramer hasn’t let that stop him.

“It’s hard on the body, working on concrete all your life,” Cramer said. “I’ve had some aches and pains, but overall, I’ve been able to do my job without any major health issues.”

While he may not have a supervisory role, Cramer still has many responsibilities.

“My additional duty is a training monitor,” Cramer said, “so I get to interact a lot with the kids coming out of technical school. I get them started with their military training and make sure all their tasks they’re required to do to get their 5-level are done. They bring a lot of energy in. It’s a very satisfying job.”

With more than 40 years of experience, Cramer has many lessons he can pass down to younger Airmen. The most important of which, he says, is to work hard.

“I like to have a good work ethic,” Cramer said. “Do your job, and things will go a lot better.”

Being a weapons loader may be difficult, but it can also be very rewarding. Cramer says that the best part of his job is the satisfaction of being able to provide what the operations calls for.

“It’s time for me to retire, but I’m gonna miss it,” Cramer said. “I think I’ll miss the comradery the most. The young people bring a lot of energy to the unit. That’s a constant change. People like me retire and new people come in. That’s just the way of life.”

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