Friday, August 27, 2010

Ammo Airmen support explosive mission

by Senior Airman Melissa B. White
451st Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

8/26/2010 - KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Building bombs is what they do - a job some might take for granted, or a thought that will never even cross the mind of others.

"Most people seem to think that bombs actually come preassembled, but these Airmen are out here building them with their hands," said Master Sgt. Robert Brown, a munitions systems specialist assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. "People don't know what it takes to put the bombs together, but we're out here on a daily basis working around explosives."

Even though others might look past jobs like theirs, these 62 Airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, with a handful of others, understand the importance of their jobs.

"I think this job has a direct result on the warfighting capability," said Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Smartt, a conventional maintenance crew chief with the 451st EMXS. "Whenever we build these bombs and the aircrews expend them, we're taking care of the enemy. It's satisfying to have such a large impact on the mission."

Since arriving here in May with the A-10 Thunderbolt II squadron also based at Spangdahlem AB, this munitions flight has supported seven different types of aircraft and built close to 200 bombs.

With at least one more month to go in the flight's deployment, this group of Airmen has recently increased their bomb output compared to previous months.

"It just depends on the tempo. The Taliban have stepped up their operations, so we stepped up ours and we've adapted," said Sergeant Brown.

Other than just building bombs, the ammo Airmen have plenty more to do to keep busy. They are responsible for inspecting all components prior to building, also ensuring the parts don't exceed the service life. Once they build the bombs, they then deliver the completed munitions to the flightline when needed.

"It's very time consuming and it takes a lot of planning and preparation," said Sergeant Smartt.

However, ammo Airmen aren't all about bombs. They are also responsible for replacing the expended 30 mm round ammunition tubes with new rounds for the A-10s. The Airmen have done this for tens of thousands of rounds throughout their rotation. They also build flares for the aircrews and rebuild them when necessary.

"Without us they can't complete their mission," said Sergeant Brown

There is one thing that might be working against this group of Airmen: the heat. However, with temperatures regularly soaring above 110 degrees during summer months, they have found ways to cope with the conditions and work around them.

"We usually build when it's cooler - at night or at the beginning or end of the day - because, as you may notice, we don't have a lot of shade," said Sergeant Smartt.

Nothing seems to be slowing them down as they work before sunrise, singing along to the music from the radio as they get the job done.

"It's the first time deploying for a lot of these Airmen and the morale is good," said Sergeant Brown. "We're here to complete our mission and to do it safely."

Staff Sgt. Misty Lowe tightens the super bolt while Airman 1St Class Anthony Anderson holds the bomb in place August 23, 2010, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Sergeant Lowe and Airman Anderson are munitions systems specialists with the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Chisholm) Hi-res


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