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A hand on every munition

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mackenzie Richardson
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The operational storage site is surrounded by tall fences, lacks grass and has fake munitions "guarding" the entry gate. The constant growl of heavy equipment fills the air as construction crews move on to demolish the next bunker. It's a part of Fairchild Air Force Base that hasn't received a lot of visitors over the years, except for the 92nd Maintenance Squadron munitions flight and its predecessors.

The munitions bunkers have played a large part in the growth of Fairchild. Their history is vast, leading back to the early 1950s. Sandia Base initiated the construction of the bunkers, also known as operational storage sites, in 1950.

Due to Fairchild's transition from Spokane Army Air Depot to United States Air Force Strategic Air Command in 1947, Fairchild was selected as one of the original five installations to receive an operational storage site.  The area became known as Deep Creek Air Force Station at Fairchild AFB. The operational storage sites were smaller alert facilities that held key strategic importance owing to their neighboring locations of various Strategic Air Command bases.

The Deep Creek operational storage site was located at Deep Creek Air Force Station, less than two miles from the runway of what is now Fairchild AFB. The weapons storage area for the 92nd and 98th Bomb Groups was constructed between 1950 and 1953.

On July 1, 1962, Deep Creek Air Force Station became part of Fairchild AFB and the munitions storage unit, previously operated by the Air Logistics Command, was transferred to the command of SAC.

Fairchild remained under SAC until 1992 when the wing joined the newly formed Air Combat Command. Not until 1994 did Fairchild become part of Air Mobility Command. Today, the bunkers that once held some of the United States' most important assets are being torn down. The project is currently in stage two and is scheduled to move on to the final stages in December. The entirety of the multi-million dollar project is scheduled to be completed in April 2016.

At Fairchild, the 92nd MXS munitions flight was one of the few to utilize the bunkers as part of their daily duties. The munitions flight provides all ground defenses for the base, such as ammunition for Combat Arms Training and Maintenance and ground flares for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape. The 92nd MXS munitions flight is composed of 14 Airmen - a flight chief, and the Airmen of accountability, maintenance and inspection. However, their relatively small size is not indicative of the size of their mission. The flight is responsible for more than 740 line items and more than $2 million worth of munitions.

Senior Airman Lennore Flores, 92nd MXS munitions accountability, the sole Airman in the accountability shop of the munitions flight, is responsible for ensuring all the munitions needed throughout the base are ordered and on time and accounted for to support missions at hand. This includes SERE, Explosive Ordnance Disposal and the 92nd Security Forces Squadron missions.

"This section works alongside the munitions accountable systems officer to ensure every asset is accounted for," said Flores. "We're also the central point of contact to share knowledge, provide answers and schedule munitions transactions for every custodian. We manage 26 accounts total."

After Flores ensures the timely arrival of all orders, munitions storage pulls munitions from accounts such as CATM, SERE, or EOD and brings them back for inspections. Senior Airman Matthew Sanchez, 92nd MXS munitions storage crew chief, is one of four Airmen in the munitions storage shop. As munitions storage, they conduct munitions transportation and ensure the superstructures which hold ground defenses are maintained.

"Storage is important for the physical accountability of munitions, with expansive coverage over stockpile assets," said Sanchez. "Storage is also the direct customer support for the on-base entities requiring ammo."

The munitions storage and inspection teams are in direct contact with line items and the stock pile value Fairchild has at one given time. This includes munitions such as the M855 Ball and M856 Tracer used for the 92nd SFS's M4 carbines and M16 rifles and Marine markers and smoke grenades used for SERE training. They also provide fire extinguisher squibs to the crews of the KC-135 Stratotanker. Though the accounts are varied, the small munitions flight of 14 Airmen keeps the process simple.
After munitions storage brings munitions into the area, the inspection team takes over. When first receiving munitions from the manufacturer, Staff Sgt. James Koenig, 92nd MXS senior munitions inspection, conducts a receiving inspection ensuring boxes haven't been damaged and documents match the shipment. Munitions storage then moves the munitions to one of the superstructure storage locations - one of the few bunkers that will remain after the demolition.

"Our job is important due to the fact we put hands on every munitions item that comes through Fairchild," said Koenig. "We make sure it's holding up in our storage facilities, inspect items that are being shipped to another base and provide account munitions if they require it. Also, if any munitions are found off base, and if our EOD is called to confiscate it, they then bring that item to us and then we inspect it and identify what it is."

Prior to munitions being delivered to the contracts, munitions inspection must conduct a pre-issue inspection. This ensures the conventional munitions are safe and approved to be distributed to the various accounts on base. Munitions inspection has worked with approximately 1.25 million different units of munitions to include small arms and small explosives such as dynamite, rockets, bombs and flares.

Prior to the bunker demolition, the munitions storage area here had more than 40 structures and covered more than 190 acres. It was the largest in Air Mobility Command. Today, the 14 Airmen who call this area their office are constantly seeing changes to include buildings disappearing overnight and fence lines being moved. Despite the drastic changes outside their walls, the 92nd MXS munitions flight continues to push through and do their part to keep Fairchild's Airmen ready to execute the mission now, tomorrow and forever.

"Without ammo, the Air Force is just the world's largest airline," said Master Sgt. Daniel Drury, 92nd MXS munitions flight chief.