From Build to Boom: AMMO backshop

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. John Bainter
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This article is the first in a series about the Airmen and work centers who deal with munitions from build to boom.

The Airmen from the 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron munitions flight here are responsible for building the things which go 'BOOM' in the night, in an area known as the "bomb dump" in "Ammo country."

This group of individuals collect, package, load and account for the tens of thousands of rounds, which leave their shop every week to support the 1st Special Operations Wing and Air Force Special Operations Command missions.

On a daily basis, thousands of 105mm, 40mm, 25mm and smaller caliber rounds are loaded by hand. The 25mm ammo loads are the heaviest containers. They contain 1,500 rounds which weigh a pound each, and the team loads up to five full loads per day.

"Whenever I hear [gunners] hanging on to the 25 mil from my house, I know tomorrow is going to be a busy day," said Master Sgt. David Veliquette, 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of conventional maintenance. "We'll come back and there will be five empty containers waiting to be loaded again."

It's the munitions specialists in this section who keep this operation running smoothly each day, Veliquette said.

Two of the key players and "go-to guys" in the section are Senior Airmen Joel Ramos and Christopher Williams, 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron munitions crew chiefs, according to Veliquette.

They are two members of a larger team responsible for building and taking accountability for every round packaged and fired, and its spent casing.

"Troops will follow Ramos and Williams because they know the level of respect they have from supervisors," said Veliquette. "Those guys always get the hard work, and their work gets done."

Munitions are loaded onto trailers, logged, and transported no faster than 5 mph to and from the flightline all day, every day, according to Veliquette. Each trailer is configured differently to meet specific mission requirement.

"We all work together as a really strong group; we're like a family on and off duty," said Williams.

Being a close-knit group ensures the mission is being done right and everyone is ready and willing to hold each other accountable, Williams said.

"The hardest part of the job is getting all the work done with the amount of personnel we have," said Ramos. "When it comes to respect from leadership, when we get it done, we feel like we earned it."

Williams and Ramos said the most gratifying part of the job is to see and hear the munitions go off.

"We play a big part in gunships and aircraft; we're a huge part of the mission when we go to the desert," said Ramos. "We can see what they actually do with the munitions we build."

It's not just getting the munitions to the line that is crucial; knowing where every single round is at all times is essential to the munitions shop and the crews who operate the weapons, according to Veliquette.

"When we work as hard as we work, it's not for nothing," said Williams. "It's the paperwork, the accountability, and the little things that make the mission. Every bullet is accounted for. If one is missing, everything is thrown off."

Accountability isn't just about knowing where the rounds are; it's also about knowing where they came from, just in case something goes wrong. It's crucial to the mission to know whose hands have touched each round from the manufacturer until they strike their target, said Veliquette.

"It's the Airmen who run this operation on a daily basis who are the backbone of every weapon which gets fired from here to the farthest corners of the earth," said Veliquette. "Without ammo, a weapon is nothing more than a hunk of metal. The proud Airmen of the munitions shop secure every load and ensure we hear the sound of freedom."