In front of the 412th Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight storage area there sits a plaque atop a desert-clad landscape with static bomb displays that reads:
Here lies the remains and remnants of past “Ammo Troops.”
Honor with dignity and respect.
Sealed: 24 Feb 1993 – 1313 Hrs
Open: 13 Sept 2013 – 1313 Hrs
Approximately 15 feet below this plaque remained a time capsule that was assembled Feb. 24, 1993, by a group of military ammunition specialists from the then 6515th Munitions Maintenance Squadron at Edwards.
Nearly 20 years later, on Sept. 9, a couple of those same military specialists, now civilians, with the attendance of 412th Maintenance Squadron munitions personnel, were on hand to unearth that same time capsule buried years ago and reveal the progression of ammo from then to now and reflect on ammo history.
“It’s always great to see how our career field has or has not changed in the past 20 years, and see what the ammo troops of 20 years thought was important then, what they held true to themselves and what they put into this time capsule,” said James Coppi, a 412th MXS munitions inspector. “It really gives anyone in the ammo career field that much more perspective, not only about the ammo career field, but the culture of what was occurring back then, to include pictures of what ammo was like. So, it was really interesting.”
Of those in attendance from the former squadron, James McCaffrey and Jon Wiggins were staff sergeants at the time of the capsule burial and William Jones was a senior airman, but they were all present in order to take part in the historical recovery they helped make possible 20 years ago.
“The chief at the time decided it was a good idea, so we put this together; we dug the hole and assembled the time capsule within an inert and hollow bomb in Bldg. 607, which at the time was conventional maintenance,” said Wiggins, a 412th MXS munitions controller. “I built the time capsule and then my crew buried it. We had a military formation and complete formal burial. It was really a big deal. Although, I truly didn’t believe I would actually be here to dig it up 20 years later.”
After the recovery was made, items within the rusted and weather-worn bomb included elements that current ammo specialists were able to see, remember and compare.
“One of the letters we read from an actual technical order from this flight 20 years ago stated, ‘you guys are probably reading TOs off a computer now,’ and here we are now. The reality now is that everything is automated,” said Jones, the munitions accountable systems officer for the 412th MXS. “The reason we did this is because the ammo career field is a very tight-knit community and we just wanted to pass on our experiences from 20 years ago to future ammo troops to show them how we did things through the use of pictures, deployment badges, patches, letters to each other, technical orders, and other memorabilia.”
“The other thing this capsule showed is that although time and technology has changed, the process is still the same. The way to get to the end result may be a little different, but our determination and attention to detail on the job remain the same,” added Wiggins.
Prior to the unearthing, it took the munitions flight an hour and a half during the heat of day to dig up the capsule.
“I was happy to be a part of this,” added McCaffrey, 412th MXS time changer manager. “Like Mr. Wiggins, I had no idea I’d be here 20 years later. I do recall, though, we all took turns polishing the plaque for a good 10 plus years, but the elements eventually got to it. Nonetheless, we wanted to hold to the time capsule’s open date, so this piece of ammo history really became part of ammo pride.”
“Initially, we were worried whether it had opened or leaked, and things in there were ruined but it sealed,” Jones said. “After an experience like this, who knows, we may just put some stuff in from 20 years ago and now and have the future ammo flight dig that capsule up 20 years from now. Altogether, today was a good day to be ammo.”