Military News

Friday, May 22, 2015

Big impact: 3rd MUNS Airmen train to build munitions

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 Squadron.

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 they deploy."

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 warheads."
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 the summertime.

"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.

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