Fairchild ammo is the bomb

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Larry W. Carpenter Jr.
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
Every week, the air power report comes out summarizing the operations that took place over in the area of responsibility (AOR). The number of sorties flown, and what ordinances were dropped are outlined thoroughly. According to the Oct. 9 report, 41 close air support missions were flown to support coalition troops in Afghanistan.

Without ammo troops to arm the aircraft, these close air support missions would turn into site seeing trips, leaving the good guys in a bad situation.

The ammo flight here at Fairchild, gets little notice due to the fact that we have tankers instead of fighters, but have no doubt that ammo has their hands in almost every aspect of base operations, from arming the security forces protecting the base to ensuring that the pilots have the proper survival gear to train with and use if necessary.

"When you go to CATM to qualify, where do you think they get their ammo? When you go to combat skills training where do you think they get the ground burst simulators and smoke grenades, pyrotechnics for the survival evasion resistance and escape training? No matter where you go, they have some sort of weapons program or use ammunition, and they have to come through us to get that," said Tech. Sgt. Madden, 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron ammo production section chief.

The munitions storage area at Fairchild, which has 46 structures and covers more than 192 acres, happens to be the largest in Air Mobility Command but has 23 active-duty personnel assigned to cover day-to-day operations, and because of deployments and the need to fill other positions around the base, they are down to 13. These 13 Airmen are responsible for more than 1,800 line items that include over 225 individual munitions types like bombs, bullets, grenades, pyrotechnics and demolition aids.

"The ammo flight has roughly 85 short tons of rolling stock worth around $1.4 million dollars," said Staff Sgt. Andrea Potts, 92nd AMXS senior munitions inspector.

Right now the ammo flight is responsible for 30 accounts, and provides courtesy storage for the Navy and Marine Corp, as well as other organizations in the area.

"We provide courtesy storage for the University of Gonzaga for the little cannons they use during football games," said Sergeant Potts. "Pretty much anyone that has ammo in the area stores it here."

With fewer Airmen available to do the job, more responsibilities are being placed on the shoulders of the junior enlisted.

"At other bases, you come in as an Airman, and you wouldn't begin to do the stuff that our Airmen do here because we have so few people," said Sergeant Potts. "They're doing it and doing it well."

The 141st Air Refueling Wing, with the Washington Air National Guard, uses the 92nd AMXS ammo flight to store their munitions. Just another aspect of how the 92nd ARW and the 141st ARW work together on a regular basis to accomplish the refueling mission

To most, working around things that could make you instantly dead would tend to be a problem. Safety in the ammunitions field is critical, and every area on the base that stores ammo has a constant stream of mandatory inspections, both in-house and from the wing level. At Fairchild, the ammo troops keep safety concerns at the top of their priority list, as is evidenced by excellent safety ratings on their wing inspection, said 92nd ARW safety weapons instructor Master Sgt. Thomas Piche.

"We follow very strict guidelines on how many explosives can be stored in one area, and how far they must be from other buildings and people," he said. "We're not just concerned with the safety of people who work with and around the explosives; we're looking out for everyone in the area, making sure everybody is safe."

A large part of making this safe environment and successful mission possible is teamwork and a sense of family.

"Ammo has a very strong history of camaraderie, because even though it doesn't seem like it but after a while it gets to be a normal thing to put your life on the line everyday," said Sergeant Potts. "You have to trust the person you're working with that they are going to do things in accordance with regulations and everyone's safety in mind."

"Maybe it's a little bit of the danger element that exists, but there's just a different camaraderie across the board," said Sergeant Potts. "If you know that someone is an ammo troop, it puts them at a different level with ammo people."

With a career field motto of "We live so others may die," it's understood that Airmen in the ammo career field take pride in what they do.

Although the ammo flight is small in size compared to other bases, what they lack in numbers they make up for with hard work and dedication, which has resulted in several achievements.

The ammo flight was commended by headquarters AMC safety and received a "best seen to date" on their electronic munitions documenting procedures. These efforts led the way in the ammo flight receiving an "Excellent" during the recent unit compliance inspection, proof positive that the flight is one of the best.