The key to destruction
By Airman 1st Class Joel Pfiester, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 03, 2014
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. --
When engaging in a combat mission against the enemy our combat aircraft must be equipped with reliable munitions, ready to deploy at a moment's notice. Without munitions, combat aircraft are simply static displays.
The Airmen of the 509th Munitions Squadron conventional maintenance section are responsible for building, testing, and maintaining the munitions for different aircraft.
The first order of business is figuring out what munitions are needed, and how many need assembling.
"The flight-line squadrons will send us something called a Munitions Operations Projection," said Airman 1st Class Justin Christoff, 509th Munitions Squadron conventional maintenance crew chief. "It's basically a projection that lets us know what they need for missions or training."
The conventional maintenance shop works on several different types of munitions according to Christoff.
"We recently did a Mark 82 build," said Airman Roger Chupp, 509th Munitions Squadron conventional maintenance crew member. "We did more than three days and I think the most we did in one day was about 108 or 109. The total we did in three days was 248."
Another munition in the shop's arsenal is the GBU-31. The GBU-31 is a Joint Direct Attack Munition or JDAM. The JDAM weighs approximately 2,000 pounds.
After the munitions are assembled they are inspected to ensure the tail kits are working properly and everything is secure.
"The first thing we do is have a seven-level inspect them," Christoff said. "There's only one other shop that touches these bombs, which is Line Delivery, and it's not their job to be proficient on what the bomb should look like. It's our job to make sure we're putting out a good product that is going to be 100 percent on target every time."
Dealing with highly important explosives and equipment means having to be ready to work at all times.
"We are on call 24/7, 365," Christoff said. "We have to 'turn-and-burn' a bunch. We don't want to keep those B-2s waiting on us. It's a $2.2 billion piece of equipment that is useless without munitions."
The self-sufficient shop also has additional duties such as being in charge of the Composite Tool Kit, being a controlled area monitor as well as Airmen that monitor Technical Orders.
"We have people that monitor TOs and make sure they are up to date and that nobody is put in danger," Christoff said. "Our number one mission in AMMO is safety. Safety of personnel comes before anything else."
The shop abides by the cardinal principle of munition safety according to Airman Roger Chupp, 509th Munitions Squadron conventional maintenance crew member.
"It's the minimum amount of people around the minimum amount of munitions for a minimum amount of time," Chupp said. "If you have 20 people around a munitions operation, that's kind of a lot of people to look over and make sure they aren't doing anything wrong but if you have four or five then you're going to be accountable to every single person and you can make sure they aren't just messing around near a fuse. God forbid something happens, the casualties would be greater."
Safety precautions are fully implemented at the shop to ensure the overall mission of providing Whiteman with combat capability.
"The end result we're looking for is to put warheads on foreheads," Chupp said. "We can't do that if we're having guys losing fingers"
The tight-knit Conventional Maintenance crew takes a lot of pride in their job and there is a strong sense of camaraderie amongst them, according to Chupp.
"There's a lot of pride that goes into this job. The people really make AMMO," Chupp said. "We are with each other all day, every day, five days a week. If we didn't like each other it would be bad, but we all love each other here."