Aircraft part store aids the mission

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- (Editor's note: This is part three of a three-part series about sections of the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron Material Management Flight)

As B-2 Spirits are flown around the world as part of strategic deterrence and global strike operations, a small group of Airmen work in a warehouse, organizing hundreds of thousands of aircraft parts to make that mission possible.

Without these parts, hundreds of Airmen and civilians who provide crucial maintenance to the B-2 would not have the equipment necessary to accomplish their mission.

Put another way, a unit of 12 Airmen from the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron aircraft part store keep B-2 sorties from coming to a grinding halt.

"Our daily mission is to provide logistics support to anyone on the flightline," said Master Sgt. Francine Vargas, 509th LRS aircraft part store NCO in charge. "Our number one priority is to support the B-2, which feeds into the Air Force's nuclear deterrence mission."

In addition to the responsibility of providing logistics support to anyone on the flightline, the shop has 2,000 authorizations for items in kits used for exercises, contingencies and other missions. Along with that, the members who work in the shop are responsible for more than 124,000 warehouse assets valued at $640 million.

The equipment they have ensures that all aircraft on base receive the equipment they need in a timely manner so the mission can continue, said Staff Sgt. Anton Auster, 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron aircraft part store supervisor.

"When an aircraft has broken components and maintenance shops need parts to make repairs, we want to make sure we get them as soon as possible," Auster said.

The shop also supports Whiteman's tenant units as well as the aircraft and maintenance flights associated with them, Vargas said.

"We have tenant support agreements in place," Vargas said. "These agreements spell out specific responsibilities and logistics support that we have to provide."

Being able to provide equipment in a timely manner helps support Air Force Global Strike Command's nuclear deterrence mission because aircraft need to be able to lift off the runway to support global strike operations, Vargas said.

"If we aren't able to complete our mission, our nation would be at risk because the parts supporting the B-2 Spirit are all here," Vargas said.

Ensuring the B-2 can take off on time is one aspect of the mission that makes the LRS Airmen proud of the level of responsibility they have, said Auster.

"When real world emergencies kick off, we play a pivotal role in helping ensure the B-2 takes off in a timely manner," Auster said.

Being stationed at a base where the world's most deadly stealth bomber can be deployed at a moment's notice can help motivate aircraft part store members to work through long hours, Vargas said.

"It gets pretty tough, but the Airmen in our shop have assembled very well to make things work," she said.

Vargas' unit recently demonstrated this fact, winning the Team Award during a compliance unit inspection in June.

"The award was a big deal because every member in our shop is either brand new or returning from a recent deployment," Vargas said. "Even though our career field is currently going through manning constraints, our Airmen have still been able to grow and perform well. For me that is the most rewarding part about my job."