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Here comes the boom

  • Published
  • By Bob Oldham
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
While Little Rock Air Force Base sits on a majority of the old Arkansas Ordnance Plant , only about 40 Airmen on base today can say their current job has a direct link to the past, where the plant is said to have built around 85 percent of the fuses and detonators used by the U.S. military during World War II.

Situated on a remote parcel of 85 acres on the east side of the base, the 40 members of the 19th Equipment Maintenance Squadron's munitions flight support Combat Airlifters on a daily basis, issuing rifle and pistol rounds for Airmen to fire during qualification training or storing plastic explosives for the explosive ordnance disposal shop until a threat needs to be neutralized. 

With more than 1,000 line items housed in the MSA, they track their $2.6 million inventory online, said Master Sgt. Brian Horsnby, 19 EMS munitions accountable systems officer. Using a Web-based tracking system allows higher headquarters to see how many and where items are stored on any given day.

The flight is divided into five sections: storage, conventional maintenance/trailer maintenance, control, inspection and munitions operations.

The storage section ensures each item is stored properly and doesn't exceed a storage facilities' net explosive weight. The section oversees numerous above-ground storage magazines as well as a few earth-covered facilities, commonly called igloos.

The combined maintenance sections oversee the trailers the flight uses to transport their stocks. They build the hot-burning countermeasures used on C-130s to defeat enemy threats.

The munitions operations section manages asset accountability. The control section serves as the command-and-control function, overseeing the movement of line items on base and the movements of Airmen within the MSA, Sergeant Horsnby said.

Some months business is booming both literally and figuratively. For example, last April the flight issued 34,000 frangible M-16 training rounds for Airmen to fire through their rifles to qualify. A frangible round is one that, when fired, disintegrates on impact with anything solid.

Other months, such as last March, no M-16 training rounds were issued. But with more than 1,000 line items, Airmen are always receiving in or issuing out stocked items.

In some cases, an item might exceed its shelf life, requiring base agencies to turn in an outdated item to be re-issued a newer item.

Arkansas' unpredictable weather can bring the entire operation to a halt, however. Lightning, once it's within a few nautical miles, is a safety hazard, not only for the Airmen but the items in their care.

While dodging stormy weather patterns poses its own battles, the flight also faces another battle - a battle against items they don't stock.

"The hardest challenge for us is to try to get [the young Airmen] trained on as many different items as possible," Master Sgt. Robert Baillargeon, the flight's chief said.

The career field as a whole handles air-to-air missiles and all types of bombs Airmen here don't get a chance to work around because C-130s aren't armed with such items.

When opportunities arise, such as exercises or deployments, there's a good chance a young Airman from Little Rock will be there, because they know they have a big impact on the Air Force - and the enemy.