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Ammo: Bringing brass, fire, force to battlefield

A man bends down to open a box, while a female stands and watches.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dustin Blackwell, 19th Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of conventional maintenance, and Senior Airman Chyanne Heady, 19th MXS munitions custody technician, open a flare box on Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Sept. 28, 2018. Flares are installed on the C-130J and used as a counter-measure for enemy fire. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)

A hand pushes a flare into its rectangular compartment amongst other flares.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dustin Blackwell, 19th Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of conventional maintenance, places flares into a cartridge firing device on Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Sept. 28, 2018. Ammo Airmen loading the flares must be attached to the prep table by a grounding bracelet to minimize electrical discharges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)

A woman bends over in a large entryway to a building to put a box down.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Chyanne Heady, 19th MXS munitions custody technician, prepares flares to be loaded onto C-130Js on Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Sept. 28, 2018. Ammo Airmen work with squadrons from around the base to fulfil their mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)

A woman bends over to write something down.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Chyanne Heady, 19th MXS munitions custody technician, catalogs the type and number of flares in an ammo box on Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Sept. 28, 2018. A strict record of all of the munitions in the ammo flights custody are recorded as they are loaded into the hopper before being transported to the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)

A man stands in front of a table and opens a container.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dustin Blackwell, 19th Maintenance Squadron NCO in charge of conventional maintenance, unpacks flares on Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, Sept. 28, 2018. Blackwell regularly aids his fellow Airmen at other bases by storing and providing munitions for them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --

Working under stressful and dangerous conditions, ammo Airmen from the 19th Maintenance Squadron munitions flight tirelessly produce and store munitions in support of units across the nation and maintain the largest munitions storage area in Air Mobility Command at Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas.

Ammo Airmen build munitions for real-world deployments and combat training scenarios, as well as smaller, routine operations supporting; the 19th Security Forces Squadron; the 19th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordinance disposal; the aircraft countermeasures; the fire suppression systems; and K-9 training kits for bomb sniffing military working dogs.

“My most memorable part of the job is building bombs while deployed, and seeing planes come back without a single one left,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dustin Blackwell, 19th MXS NCO in charge of conventional maintenance. “The payoff is knowing that your hard work is being put to use to deter the enemy and save lives.”

Producing such a hazardous product safely comes from plenty of practice at home station, and nothing quite prepares an ammo Airman for this demand like the operations tempo from various units on base.

“We provide the 19th Operations Group with flares,” Blackwell said. “We also determine what aircraft countermeasures they can and can’t fly with. We figure out how many they can have in the air.”

Maintaining combat readiness for service members while airborne or performing ground operations is a large priority for ammo Airmen, and making a mistake while accomplishing that mission can have explosive results.

“We wear personal protective equipment and minimize any potential catalysts for the explosives,” said Senior Airman Chyanne Heady, 19th MXS munitions custody technician. “Some of these munitions can be extremely dangerous.”

Wearing bracelets attached to their grounded work table allows, ammo Airmen to stay safe in around explosive materials. Dealing with personal and professional stressors on a daily basis, ammo Airmen still manage to stick together and support each other to achieve the mission.

“Everything we do is sort of out of the norm from other Airmen in our squadron,” Heady said.

An unconventional set of duties and demanding schedule may drive some apart, but ammo Airmen find themselves forging a deeper bond and sense of satisfaction because of it.

 “The people and payoff are what make me stay in,” Blackwell said.


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