by Airman 1st Class Kyle Johnson
JBER Public Affairs
5/22/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- 'The
United States Air Force, dropping warheads on foreheads since 1947.'
Many have heard this phrase before, perhaps chuckled, and moved on.
Those who hear it may attribute the glory to the brave men and women
piloting fighter jets every day, but few think, 'Where do the bombs come
from; and how precise are they, really?"
Before those bombs can dish out some freedom, ammunition troops have to build them.
To accomplish this mission, every munitions systems specialist is
required to complete combat munitions training on an annual basis, said
Senior Airman Mary Smith, unit training monitor for the 3rd Munitions
CMT is a three-part annual training program with a classroom portion, a
practical portion on precision targeting missiles, and a practical
portion on building bombs.
The ammo career field is split into different categories, so even though
the training monitors teaching the class in the past have been ammo
Airmen, they may not have been part of the particular category that
deals with building bombs.
"While we are all munitions Airmen, we work in different capacities," Smith said. "
Some of these Airmen may never touch a bomb during their daily work, but
they need to be fully capable to do whatever the mission calls for when
Because of this, the bomb-building training itself used to be handled by
a training monitor. However, to increase the standard of training, they
now use conventional maintenance Airmen - the section of ammo that
actually builds bombs - to teach this portion.
"This is our first time as conventional maintenance crew members doing
the combat munitions training. It was a little bit of a process, but we
were able to figure it out," Murray said. "I'm happy that everyone came
together and we were able to make it happen."
In a deployed environment, someone who is fully qualified will lead the
teams, but if everyone has a basic understanding of what is expected of
them, the team will operate more smoothly, Smith said.
"Some of these people may not have touched a bomb in quite a long time,"
said Staff Sgt. Michael Murray, crew chief of conventional maintenance
at the 3rd MUNS. "This gives them the familiarity to get the job done."
During the training, Airmen will be building inert bombs which are then used by pilots for their own training.
For regular training purposes, the team assembles the bombs on a trailer. During time-sensitive operations, they use the MAC.
The MAC, or the munitions assembly conveyor, is, as its name suggests, a
conveyor belt. Using the MAC, munitions Airmen can work together to
assemble hundreds of bombs with efficiency.
It operates in much the same way one would imagine Santa's elves work on Christmas presents.
The difference, of course, is these presents are given to naughty boys and girls, not nice ones.
"Airmen line up along the MAC and each is working on a different part of
the bomb," Murray said. "This training gives them the familiarization
of building bombs in mass quantities."
When they aren't using it, it folds up and is packed away.
Inert bombs are exactly the same as live bombs, but lack the explosives and fuse, Murray said.
"These same tails are used in actual bombs," Murray said. "But instead
of being attached to 1,000 pounds of concrete, they are attached to
Before assembly, they update or install software in the tail-kit of the bomb, Murray said.
"Every bomb, even the inert [ones], is GPS-guided," Murray said.
The software they install could mean the difference between mission failure and mission success.
"After our kit munitions units [tail kits] are tested and good to go, we
move on to the bomb bodies." Murray said. "We lift them up with the
forklift and transport them over to the trailer. Then, we bring them
them outside and attach them to our bomb bodies."
The annual training used to be limited to summer, because of the unique cold weather Alaska brings to bear.
To accomplish the mission with the limited time frame, they would train every week.
"It is extremely cold out here in the winter," Smith said. "Even with gloves and hats, by lunch time, toes are getting numb."
Now, they have a heater in their training shelter which allows them to
schedule training year-round instead of monopolizing the facilities in
"We have a huge impact on the mission; without bombs, those planes are just an air show," Murray said.
Dropping warheads on foreheads may have a big impact, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.
Out of sight, there's a force that puts the weight behind the punch: the teamwork of the Airmen who support the planes.