Muntions Airmen maintain standards of excellence round after round
By William Buchanan, 125th Fighter Wing
/ Published September 15, 2013
Despite the common assumption about people in the Air Force, very few Airmen ever fly in the seat of an F-15. -- In fact, very few Airmen ever even step foot on the flight line, spending most of their careers providing mission support from the various offices and workshops behind the scenes. To the public eye, however, the Air Force takes the fight to the skies in the planes and jets with the bombs and missiles.
Long before those bombs and missiles are ever strapped onto the multimillion-dollar aircraft, they are assembled, tested and inspected by the Airmen of the 125th Fighter Wing Munitions Flight. Officially, their job title is equipment ordinance mechanic, but throughout the Air Force they commonly refer to themselves as "Ammo."
"Munitions makes the mission," Master Sgt. Todd Nelson said.
Nelson has served more than 21 years in the Air National Guard and worked every one of them as a 2W0X1. Despite there being only one AFSC for Ammo, within the 125FW Munitions Flight there are 10 different shops. Each shop focuses on a specific product or service to support a spectrum missions across the state of Florida.
"We don't just store and work on missiles," Nelson said. "We store and maintain any type of explosives used."
Ammo is responsible for accountability, safe storage and inspection of all munitions for the state, from a single 9 mm bullet to $2 million missiles. The smaller stuff is issued out to shop custodians at the 125FW and at the Geographically Separated Units (GSUs) such as Security Police, Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) and Life Support. As for missiles, Ammo tracks the flight hours and the number of flights for each missile for maintenance and warranty purposes.
While Ammo is probably most well known for assembling and testing missiles, especially the heat-seeking "sidewinder" missile used on the F-15. However, they also count and test every single 20 mm round ever strapped to a fighter jet, which each hold 940 rounds. The 20 mm rounds are all hand tested, one by one, for dents, scuffs and burrs that could cause a misfire and potentially threaten the life of our pilots.
"When you call on it to work, it's going to work, and it's going to do its job, whether it's missiles to the flight line or bullets to security," Nelson said. "We just take pride in what we do."
Because of the dangers of working with and storing so many explosives and projectiles, munitions flights are often isolated from the rest of an Air Base. This distance from others combined with the team-oriented tasks of the munitions mission force Airmen to work together in close quarters. The result is a strong bond between the men and women that work in Ammo.
"The career field has a good camaraderie base," Nelson said. "No matter where you go, you're going to run into somebody in your career field, and you're going to be incorporated into the group."
At the 125FW, this camaraderie takes place after duty hours in what is fondly referred to as "The Boom Boom Room," a bay filled with couches, recliners and board games hidden behind the remains of an in-flight target practice banner complete with 20 mm round bullet holes. There the Airmen of Ammo relax and hang out as one family.
"We're a close-knit group," Nelson said. "I couldn't tell you one thing that makes it that way; it just is."