What makes the world’s greatest and most powerful Air Force is not just the manpower behind it but the firepower that backs it up.
Located in an isolated area at Luke Air Force Base is a group of Airmen who support the mission by providing and managing the ammunition on base in a section called munitions storage.
“We maintain the capability to store 18 million pounds of net explosive weight on base,” said Master Sgt. Howard Suggs, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Munitions Storage NCO-in-charge. “The net worth of all the munitions we oversee is worth approximately $50 million. We have the largest munitions stockpile in all of the Air Education and Training Command bases.”
The day begins with building security and inventory checks. Storage Airmen are responsible for not only maintaining the storage units, but also making sure everything is accounted for, organized, in serviceable condition and labeled correctly.
“We are essentially the core of munitions,” said Tech. Sgt. Melissa Tennant, 56th EMS assistant munitions storage NCO-in-charge. “We keep the other shops going by providing them the components they need to build missiles, bombs and more. We also support security forces, explosive ordnance disposal, egress and the pilots on base.”
Munitions storage Airmen handle a variety of munitions including small-arms, chaffs, which are tubes used by pilots to deter enemies from striking their aircraft by creating a decoy cloud of metallic material, flares, GBU-12, GBU-38, both smart bombs, BDU-33s, BDU-50s and MK-82s, Tennant said.
Management of explosive components can also be dangerous if certain precautions aren’t taken.
“We always put safety first,” Tennant said. “The most hazardous element of our job would be when handling damaged or old items. We also need to be hyperaware of our surroundings because we deal with bombs that range from 500 to 2,000 pounds using heavy-rated forklifts.”
Munitions storage is only one of nine sections that keep the mission going.
The other sections of ammo include control accountability, trailer inspection, precision-guided munitions, conventional maintenance, line delivery, equipment maintenance, support and munitions inspection, Suggs said.
Although small, the 18-man team gets the job done.
“Ammo is important to the Air Force mission because we help in deterring our enemies from attacking us,” Suggs said. “It is essential that we maintain a stockpile of ammo so that we are prepared if we do go to war.”