OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- While most, if not all, Airmen of the 40th Air Expeditionary Group take pride in their jobs, two seemingly similar specialties take it to a level where a friendly rivalry exists at this forward-deployed location.
Make no mistake about the distinction between munitions and weapons Airmen. Those who do are usually quickly corrected. They will learn that munitions Airmen build bombs used by Air Force aircraft, and weapons Airmen load them onto the aircraft.
“The rivalry thing is all in fun,” said Senior Airman Patrick Dillon of the 40th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. “We’re all on the same team; we just pick on each other because we both have an involvement with munitions. Each feels their job is the more important part of working with munitions.”
Munitions Airmen test fin kits and inspect, assemble, disassemble, store and deliver munitions to and from the flightline. The six miles from the bomb dump to the flightline is a long haul at 25 mph in a bobtail.
“In a nutshell, we do everything that needs to be done on munitions until they get to the flightline,” said Airman Dillon who is deployed from Minot Air Force Base, N.D.
The munitions here total about 3.9 million pounds of net explosive weight and include 2,000-pound joint-direct attack munitions, general purpose bombs and countermeasure flares, which are used primarily for shows of force to let an enemy know there is a bomber in the area. The nearly 100-pound fin kits are what give the joint-direct attack munition its IQ. Otherwise, it is just another free-falling “dumb” bomb without the inertial navigation and global positioning system included in the kits, Airman Dillon said.
JDAMs give bombers a short standoff launch range. Crews can launch bombs from their aircraft’s wing pylons at 40,000 feet and up to 15 miles from a target and still have near-precision accuracy -- a plus when the bad guys shoot back, he said.
The munitions were born from a Desert Storm shortfall. During the war, the Air Force found it needed a bomb to drop in any weather with near-precision; one that could hit within 30 feet of a target. Almost like laser-guided bombs, minus the high price tag.
Most of what the munitions Airmen do here, though, is the same as at home station. One big difference is at home they mostly handle inert munitions, whereas here everything is live.
“It’s still the same, but they’re just not getting dropped in a field (training range),” Airman Dillon said.
The versions of JDAMs used here are also different than most of the training munitions used at home station, said Master. Sgt. Dwight Hardy who is also from Minot.
“It’s been a great learning experience for the younger troops,” he said.
Airman 1st Class Scott Lauritzen, a conventional munitions crew member also with the 40th EMXS, said there is one other major difference.
“It’s a good feeling having confidence the bombs you build do what they need to do … on target on, on time,” he said. “We spend a lot of time building these up. It feels good knowing that they help our guys on the ground.”
It is a safe bet coalition forces on the ground greatly appreciate the pride both munitions and weapons Airmen put into their jobs, rivalry or not.