It’s day six of a base-wide readiness exercise.
Airmen are dressed in an intricate but lightweight suit, consisting of a protective gas mask, gloves and over boots, specifically made to prevent deadly agents from reaching the skin and respiratory system.
They walk cautiously across a large, concrete platform to the assembly conveyer pad.
To the left of the pad, a team of Airmen are already building up laser-guided aerial bombs. To the right, they’re breaking down 500-pound joint direct attack munitions. These Airmen are literally surrounded by tons of explosives, and building more of them while donned head-to-toe in comfortless protective gear.
The 355th Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s munitions flight at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., better known as AMMO, has been charged with the responsibility of building up and breaking down live bombs which are essential to maintaining a lethal Air Force.
The AMMO flight has continued to be put to the test since the beginning of the Cactus Flag 18-02 exercise, a large-scale training operation focused on ensuring the installation’s ability to effectively generate attack aircraft. But attack aircraft can’t attack without bombs.
“We’ve been in 24-hour operations for about a week,” said Master Sgt. Anthonio Dais, 355th EMS non-commissioned officer in charge of the munitions flight. “We’ve built over 600 GBU-12s and GBU-38s, and about 21,000 rounds of munitions.”
Sustaining Davis-Monthan AFB’s ability to destroy the opposition is no small task, especially during consecutive 12 hour shifts, while wearing mission-oriented protective posture gear. Because the Airmen at the AMMO flight have been working at a grueling pace for a week straight, supervisors had to adapt and implement motivational strategies to make sure their team is performing consistently.
“We first want to make sure they understand their purpose,” Dais said. “I’m trying to use what I know to help them be successful. We’re a very important part of a grand design and having open conversation with the team helps them perform to the best of their abilities.”
The AMMO team has a momentous role in the exercise operations. They must maintain a stellar performance throughout the exercise because it is a reflection of how they’re expected to perform in real world operations. But of course, there is always room for improvement.
“Once we got into the routine of things, it became a lot easier,” said Airman 1st Class Carl Davis, 355th EMS stockpile management crew member. “There was a general learning curve for people who haven’t worked on the MAC pad before, and for those who came in from tech school new to the operational side. But it didn’t take them long to become familiar with the operations.”
With the challenge of enduring a week of around-the-clock operations, Airmen from the 355th EMS continue to provide excellent service and maintain mission readiness not only during the Cactus Flag exercise, but for any fight anywhere any time.