Bombs on target

  • Published
  • By Maj. Brady Wilkins
  • 509th Munitions Squadron commander
The 509th Bomb Wing and the B-2 have never had a problem with putting bombs on target in combat. I have been fortunate enough to be part of our war fighting team during the "Shock and Awe" campaign for Operation Iraq Freedom in March 2003 and during our most recent efforts for Operation Odyssey Dawn in March 2011. There are a lot of moving parts and processes that take place in order to put bombs on target, but without our Airmen it would never happen. So what is your role?

Every Airman can claim a piece of the puzzle that leads to bombs on target. For some, the piece of the puzzle fits easily into place. In the Munitions Squadron the pieces are easily defined, our ammo technicians assemble the bombs and our armament technicians maintain the aircraft release equipment that the bombs attach to and release from.

For others, their piece of the puzzle is not so easily defined and it may take time to see where it fits into place. The point I'm trying to drive home is: every Airmen has a role and a piece of the puzzle to mission accomplishment.

I would like to share a story on how an Airman in the Operations Group, not directly involved with bomb building operations, had a major impact with putting bombs on target. Earlier this year the 509th BW was tasked to support an exercise that involved dropping penetrator bombs for testing. During the test, several of the bombs did not explode. Although they were on target, the desired effect was not obtained.

The Airman investigated why the bombs did not detonate on impact and discovered there was an issue involving the kevlar extension lanyards that allow the bomb to arm and detonate. He was fairly sure what was wrong. However, since he is not an expert in building bombs, he voiced his concerns. Initially his concerns were not heard because he was outside of his lane and he was not considered an expert - this was not his piece of the puzzle.

Fortunately for the Air Force and the mission, he was persistent and eventually heard. Subsequent investigation by the experts determined the lanyards had been installed backwards, which did not allow the bombs to arm and detonate as designed.

The follow up led to a technical order change on the procedures for assembling the penetrator bombs, proper training for our Airmen, and additional quality control checks were instituted into the bomb assembly process. This piece of the puzzle will help ensure our penetrator bombs will detonate when they are put on target for combat operations.

How can you make a difference? Communicate...ask the right questions, listen, and think outside of the box. Each and every day we should all challenge subordinates, supervisors, peers, and most importantly, ourselves to strive for excellence in all we do. Look at all the pieces of the puzzle. All of us can make a difference in putting bombs on target!