Munitions integration between Air Force, Air Guard a success

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Total Force Integration has been the main focus here over the past few years. The base is home to the United States Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Missouri Air National Guard and Missouri Army National Guard, who all contribute to flying missions ranging from the B-2 Stealth Bomber to the A-10 Thunderbolt to the AH-64 Apache helicopter.

In 2005, the 131st Fighter Wing at Lambert Field, St. Louis, Mo., was redesignated per the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. As part of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force's and Director of the Air National Guard' s TFI initiative, the 131st Bomb Wing was then established as an ANG classic associate unit on the B-2's at Whiteman.

"I believe the TFI is going very well," said Col. Bob Leeker, Air Guard' s 131st BW commander. "The 131st maintenance, operations and support personnel continue to integrate throughout the B-2 operation and support areas. Each month, more 131st members are moving to Whiteman from St. Louis. The classic association is a relatively new concept and at times there are challenges that face us. But the outstanding relationship between the 509th Bomb Wing and the 131st (BW) allows us to overcome challenges and increase the B-2 combat capability for America's Air Force."

An important part of integration is the bond that the Airmen form in each specialty, whether they are a member of the Air Force or the Air Guard, to work together as one big entity to produce the necessary components to make their mission a success.

Staff Sgt. John Burkhart is a key element in making the integration a success, according to Master Sgt. Jerry Jones, 131st Bomb Wing munitions flight chief and Sergeant Burkhart's supervisor.

"Everything he does, he puts his head in the books and gets it done right," Mr. Jones said.

Sergeant Burkhart has been in the military for seven years and started out in the active duty Air Force in the munitions shop here. One year ago, he made the decision to make a lateral movement to the Air Guard for the stability of the family orientated organization.

"He has been an important part in helping us transition quickly," said Master Sgt. Mike Dilley, 131st BW munitions systems specialist. "He helps mirror our training with the 509th (BW)."

Sergeant Burkhart's job entails equipment account, teaching Airmen the ins and outs of munitions, inspecting trailers that haul ammunition, and, of course, building the ammunition.

"I love my job," said Sergeant Burkhart. "I produce weapons for the premiere bomber in the history of the world. It's a crazy piece of machinery. It's very unique."

The Airmen in the munitions shop builds 11 different kinds of munitions which can be altered in a small way to make another form of the weapon. This shop also gets to see and test the new ammunition that comes through the base.

"He touches every kind of explosive on this base," said Sergeant Dilley.

Currently on a full-time basis, the shop is made up of 20 Airmen and three are full-time Air Guardsmen.

Sergeant Burkhart said the Total Force Integration is going very well in the munitions shop.

"With the TFI, we give the active duty a lot of stability," he said. "When the Air Force deploys, the Guard is here to fill the void. You're guaranteed to have Airmen here that are teaching constantly, and that's our mission."

All the training is done on inert ammunition and happens on a daily basis in the shop. When entering the career field, training lasts about one year with a different bomb type each month after the Airman' s initial military training.

Of course, training is an ongoing process as ammunition changes throughout the years. Everyone participates in the training exercises to stay proficient on their skills.

Also with Air Guard incorporated into the shop, they can retain corporate knowledge at the base since active duty Air Force people move around a lot.

"The most important concept within the classic association is one of integrating," Colonel Leeker said. "This brings the experience of Guardsman and also the stability of the Guard to each functional area. This experience and stability enhances mission capability. Together, as a team of active and reserve component Airmen, we each bring our own capabilities to the 'fight,' and therefore we are a stronger component."

Sergeant Burkhart said he always knew he wanted to be in the military and the munitions shop is his home away from home. The Air Force and Air Guard have formed a strong bond and have become "a big family."

"I'm glad I picked this job," he said. "This is the only thing I know. I truly love my job. My heart and soul is in it. There is nothing I hate about my job."

The saying in the shop is: "The mission isn't a mission without munitions."

For more information about the Missouri National Guard, please call 1-888-GoGuard or visit www.moguard.com.