Keeping safety locked and loaded

  • Published
  • By Airman Bethany Feenstra
  • 911th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Expose the minimum amount of people to the minimum amount of explosives for the minimum amount of time. According to Staff Sgt. Matthew Hohe, quality assurance inspector of the munitions flight with the 911th Maintenance Squadron here, this is a cardinal rule of the munitions career field.

This close-knit shop of eight is in charge of providing, storing and maintaining munitions for the rest of the wing.

"We have various different kinds of small arms, primarily from combat arms training and maintenance as well as security forces, different kinds of smokes and ground burst simulators used for training." said Tech. Sgt. William Fedorek, munitions inspector with the munitions flight. "We even have marking cartridges that security forces use that are basically a paintball on a bullet. They use it for active shooter training exercises."

Hohe said that when he first joined this career field he was shocked at how close everyone is. But after being a part of it for so many years, he wouldn't have it any other way. Fedorek feels similarly.

"We always have to work together. So whether you're arguing with a person that morning, you're going to make sure that they get home safe," said Fedorek

In order to ensure their own safety as well as the safety of other members of the base, the munitions shop uses a buddy system. No one is allowed to work alone.

"If we didn't do our job right, we could hurt ourselves very badly," said Fedorek. "Even worse yet, if we gave bad munitions to the cops or put bad munitions on an airplane and they malfunctioned while in flight there could be a serious fire on board. Having bad ammo blow up in a security forces member's gun or something like that could be very devastating. It's important that we get the right people the stuff they need and make sure it works."

Not all of the members of the munitions squadron even have access to their workspace, further enforcing the buddy system. Fedorek said that the reason for this is to provide a system of checks and balances.

"You're always looking out for the other person," Fedorek said, and pointed to Hohe. "If he sees me doing something I shouldn't be doing he's going to tell me about it and vice versa. Or if I'm looking in a box and there's three and I only count two on accident he's an extra set of eyes."

This is vital to the mission of the munitions squadron, which Hohe says provides security forces and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations here with munitions when they deploy and also to handle day-to-day missions and training. As far as aircraft go, he said that having available munitions allows pilots to get the proper training they need.

"If a pilot wants to feel how a plane is going to handle with a fully loaded package, they'll load those bombs and he'll be able to fly around so he knows what the plane is going to do with a full load on it, versus flying around empty," said Hohe. "They can also obviously train with those munitions and make sure that they get down and hit targets."

With their work being used anywhere from the firing range on base to C-130s in the wild blue yonder, munition's role at the 911th Airlift Wing, starting with the keeping each other safe and in check, is crucial to the roles and safety of their fellow Airmen at the wing.

"Without ammo, it's the world's largest airliner," said Hohe with a smile. "Without the bombs they're just airplanes flying around. We make it happen."