AMMO pride shows in end product
Left to right, Senior Airman James Deason, Staff Sgt. Matthew Hutzenbiler, and Airman 1st Class Larry Maloney, 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, secure GBU-38s for transportation to a ready line in preparation for loading an aircraft, July 20, in Southwest Asia. The 379 EMXS munitions flight provides aircraft with both offensive and defensive devices to support various air tasking orders. Airmen Deason and Maloney are deployed from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and Sergeant Hutzenbiler is deployed from Ellsworth, S.D. All servicemembers are deployed in support of Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Robert Barney)
by Senior Airman Michael Matkin
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
8/3/2009 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- The fight can be tough on the ground. When a team is engaged with the enemy and needs a little backup, they can call upon their air counterparts to come zooming across the sky laying a stream of fire power with a show of force unlike any other. But how are these munitions assembled and how do they make their way onto the aircraft?
If they are dropped by a B-1B Lancer, they were most likely assembled by the men and women of the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight.
"Assembling and inspecting munitions makes me feel good because what I am doing helps servicemembers who are pinned down get out of an area safely," said Airman 1st Class Larry Maloney, 379 EMXS munitions flight conventional maintenance crew chief, who is deployed here from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. "I feel like I am making a difference," the Campton, Ky., native said.
The munitions flight's primary mission is to assemble and inspect bombs for the B-1B Lancer, such as the Joint Direct Attack Munitions Guided Bomb Unit-31, which has a launch weight of more than 2,000 pounds and the GBU-38, with a launch weight of more than 500 pounds. They also assemble chaffs and flares for the C-17 Globemaster III and the C-130 Hercules, said Senior Master Sgt. William Seighman, 379 EMXS munitions flight production superintendent.
The difference between working in a munitions flight at home station and in a deployed environment is significant, from a mental standpoint. "At a deployed location, we use live explosives and build bombs which are used for specific targets," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Hutzenbiler, 379 EMXS munitions flight conventional maintenance crew chief. This differs from being at home station where we mainly assemble training assets, which have no explosive filler.
Building these live munitions is stressful, laborious work. Sergeant Seighman, who is deployed here from Dyess AFB, said that the munitions flight Airmen spend a lot of time outdoors, in extreme conditions, assembling the munitions from parts, all while maintaining the highest standards.
Although the work can be grueling at times, the Airmen here are constantly working to ensure all mission requirements are met. "If there is a need, the munitions flight can surge to rapid assembly, where bombs can be built in less than two minutes," Staff Sgt. Heather Lanicek, 379 EMXS munitions flight conventional maintenance crew chief, said.
Once assembled, the munitions are stored in a staging area until the mission requires them, Sergeant Hutzenbiler, deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D., said.
Having the required munitions available 24/7 gives our aircrews the tools they need to be successful, Sergeant Lanicek said. "All bombs meet the highest standards allowing aircrew to decisively engage the enemy with power and precision."
All munitions are inspected starting at the build site and throughout the entire process to ensure there is no corrosion, damage or defects. The Amarillo, Texas, native also said that some munitions are inspected more than 30 times, and these checks do not stop until the munitions are heading for their target. Due to the multiple inspections and the hard work, the munitions flight has achieved a detonation rate of 98.2 percent.
"Without the munitions flights around the world, the Air Force could not put bombs on target," Sergeant Lanicek, deployed here from Dyess AFB, said.
The 379 EMXS munitions flight has helped put numerous bombs are target by building more than 6,000 bombs within the past three years, said Sergeant Seighman, who hails from Smethport, Pa.
Along with the success, the munitions flight personnel must face the many challenges of working in a deployed environment, said 1st Lt. Brock Sargent, 379 EMXS munitions flight commander.
He said one of their big-gest challenges is the harsh environment. The heat and blowing sand can take a tre-mendous toll on munitions. Being forward thinking, the flight has taken steps to mitigate the effects of prolonged battering caused by the elements, and some of the procedures have already been incorporated into Air Force technical orders. For example, they cut their Assembled Munitions Serviceability Inspection interval in half, completely tearing down a weapon and inspecting each component every six months versus one year.
Solving challenges in a high-stress environment is testament to the dedication of the 379 EMXS team, Lieutenant Sargent, deployed here from Dyess AFB, said.
"We are a much tighter group of Ammo troops. In the AOR, we have to rely on each other so much more, and we really do 'gel' as a family," Sergeant Hutzenbiler, a native of Billings, Mont., said.
Being able to mesh and work well with one another is very important in the mu-nitions world because there is no room for error, Lieutenant Sargent said. They know the smallest discrepancy can mean the difference between a detonation and a "dud" so all the ammo Airmen rely on each other taking their business seriously as well as taking pride in their product.
"They know that every successful bomb they build gives American and Coalition forces on the ground the support they need to accomplish their mission," he said.