One of the most recognizable features of the A-10 Thunderbolt II is the 30 mm GAU-8/A seven-barrel Gatling gun.
Next to learning how to fly, A-10 pilots at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., are required to become expert marksman through continuous training.
However, without a constant flow of ammunition to be supplied and resupplied, this vital training doesn’t happen. In a small munitions flight shop, there are three to four Airmen at a time making sure those rounds are safe, processed and ready to fire.
The 355th Equipment Maintenance squadron conventional maintenance shop receives and processes 30 mm rounds for A-10 pilots to use for training. They also process all small arms munition, including chaff and flare, .50 caliber, and 7.62 mm munitions.
“We have the Air Force’s largest 30 mm ammunition allocation,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. William Pence, 355th EMS conventional maintenance shop production superintendent. “We process about a million and half rounds per year. Of those, about 800,000 are expended rounds.”
Processing rounds in conventional maintenance is an all-day event. When the shop receives a can of rounds from the flight line, it’s hooked to a GFU-7/E “Dragon” processor. This machine separates expended rounds from live rounds, dumping the already used brass shells out one side and returning unused ammunitions out the other.
“A lot of times there will be full cans of live rounds that haven’t been shot,” said Senior Airman Christopher Moore, 355th EMS conventional maintenance shop crew chief. “We put those rounds back into the cans and make sure they get back to the pilots so they can keep training.”
This workflow allows Davis-Monthan to make full use of its resources and ensures not a single round is lost or wasted.
“We supply the resource they need to become proficient in using the 30 mm,” said Moore. “We are the blood of that training mission. Getting the rounds processed and back out to the flight line is a very crucial part of their training.”
These Airmen help keep A-10 pilots ready to perform the mission whenever they’re called upon. It’s their work on the ground that keeps training in the sky going.
“It’s a good feeling, especially when it’s been a long day and you’ve worked hard,” said Moore. “Definitely touches the heart a bit and makes you feel good when you see them flying past you.”