AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
Aircraft have a multitude of capabilities. One of the most vital is dropping bombs and other munitions. Whether it’s for joint-force training or in combat, there are Airmen on the ground responsible for getting those munitions where they need to be.
The Airmen assigned to the 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight, also known as “Ammo,” receive, identify, inspect, store, recondition, ship, issue, deliver, maintain, test and assemble these guided and unguided munitions.
“The 380th Munitions Flight has a huge impact throughout the AOR,” said Chief Master Sgt. David Bailie, 380th EMXS Munitions flight chief. “We support the Explosive Ordnance Disposal mission, K-9 units, Army Search and Rescue operations, Navy SEAL teams, Coalition forces and host nation forces here at ADAB, but we are also in the business of redistributing vital munitions components to just about every base in AFCENT so that those units can build munitions. This enables the Air Force to deliver decisive airpower and precise airstrikes to support ground combat troops across the entire U.S. Central Command battlespace.”
The Ammo Airmen are constantly reminded that they are essential to the fight with such a distinct impact on the USCENTCOM’s area of responsibility.
“It takes a special mindset to do what we do,” said Staff. Sgt. Cory Klostermen, 380th EMXS munitions craftsman. “We work with explosives day in and day out and that takes a high level of responsibility.”
Being downrange has amplified the Ammo Airmen’s mission, as their daily products aren’t going far. This leads to a constant need for munitions.
“One experience I had here at ADAB that I take pride in is supporting Army and Navy special forces,” said Staff Sgt. Eugene Eudy, 380th EMXS munitions craftsman. “[I] specifically led the munitions movement where I had to download several different types of explosives directly from two HH-60 Black Hawks while they were running.”
Working in high demand can be troubling, but this group of Airmen continuously bring their game every single day.
“I don’t really look at things as challenges,” said Tech. Sgt. Tyler Hawkins, 380th EMXS Munitions Flight Production section Chief. “I like to look at it as an opportunity for me to learn something. Right now, that learning opportunity has been this deployment. I came here expecting a full bomb dump of 40-plus individuals, only to be told that it would only be myself and four other individuals to maintain an entire bomb dump. Guess what? [You] better put your big boy pants on because you’re about to learn some things. Lesson learned—be flexible.”
As an Ammo troop, being behind the scenes isn’t always glamorous. With the hard work the Airmen execute on a daily basis, the Air Force and other supporting agencies only get a small glimpse of their mission.
“Most people do not realize that 90 percent of the work in our job is done behind the scenes or out of sight,” Bailie said. “Most of the Air Force only visualizes about 10 percent of our work in the form of what we deliver to the flight line. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride knowing the impact of my team’s efforts. What they do can be tied to saving troops’ lives on the ground, even though we are thousands of miles away from the actual battle.”
Distance doesn’t stop these Airmen from recognizing how essential they are to the Air Force mission—whether it’s delivering bombs to an aircraft before it takes off or making a small hand grenade for a training exercise.
“Most people don’t really know anything about Ammo,” Klosterman said. “They know of us, but they don’t know what goes on inside the fence. We are the bread and butter that makes the Air Force lethal. Everything from the bombs we build and test to the small things like supporting outside agencies with small arms ammunition, grenades, ejection catapults for jets and much more to Security Forces, Special Forces, egress, etc. We don’t just build bombs. If there are explosives involved, we are involved.”