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AMMO troops count every shot, make every shot count

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gavin Henderson, 39th Maintenance Squadron munitions operations technician, (left), and Staff Sgt. Bryan Gibree, 39th MXS munitions inspection supervisor, inspect bombs during an inventory Sept. 11, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Munitions Airmen, commonly known as “AMMO troops,” are responsible for the storage, inspection, transportation and issuance of ammunition to various constituents for their respective missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Gavin Henderson, 39th Maintenance Squadron munitions operations technician, (left), and Staff Sgt. Bryan Gibree, 39th MXS munitions inspection supervisor, inspect bombs during an inventory Sept. 11, 2019, at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Munitions Airmen, commonly known as “AMMO troops,” are responsible for the storage, inspection, transportation and issuance of ammunition to various constituents for their respective missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua Magbanua)

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey --

“If it goes pop, sizzle, bang or boom, we deal with it,” said Staff Sgt. Bryan Gibree, 39th Maintenance Squadron munitions inspection supervisor. “It’s our job to make sure that everyone has the munitions they need—when and where they need it— and that those munitions will be effective and reliable.”

This is why the U.S. Air Force isn’t a glorified mail service—because of dedicated munitions Airmen who put the “fire” in firepower.

“Without ammo, the Air Force becomes just another airline,” Gibree continued. “The weapons we employ make sure our enemies are eliminated and our missions continue. Our ability to eliminate a target anywhere in the world has a powerful effect on our adversaries and works as a great deterrent.”

Munitions Airmen, commonly known as “AMMO troops,” are responsible for the storage, inspection, transportation and issuance of ammunition to various constituents for their respective missions. They handle anything from small arms ammunition to large bombs.

AMMO troops are typically assigned to maintenance squadrons across the Air Force—such is the case at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. However, some Air Force bases have larger missions requiring them to have a separate munitions squadron.

Part of this responsibility is to be effective and reliable, ensuring everything in their inventory is accounted for. In order to make shots count, one must first count their shots, said Staff Sgt. Gavin Henderson, a munitions operations technician.

“Keeping track of our munitions is of the utmost importance to us because if we do not know how much we have on hand then we cannot properly prepare for what the mission may dictate,” he said. “On top of that we can ensure none of our assets go missing or fall into the wrong hands.”

Henderson recently led a complete inventory of the 39th Air Base Wing’s conventional munitions stockpile at Incirlik, adding that this inventory is a routine procedure whenever there is a changeover of accountability custodians, known as munitions accountability systems officers.

“It is imperative that accountability is maintained so the Air Force is prepared for any conflict or training that may arise,” said Master Sgt. Justin O’Lone, the 39th MXS’s new MASO. “We provide munitions assets that aid our agencies with day-to-day and big mission operations.”

Building upon their emphasis on accountability, AMMO troops also implement risk management practices.

While working with munitions all day carries obvious risks, Gibree said it’s not always the big bombs which threaten workers. More often than not, it’s smaller explosives which can cause great damage: flares for example.

“One little spark will set flares off,” he said. “And when they ignite, they burn very quickly and deplete oxygen in the surrounding area.”

Gibree added no matter what the risks of the job are, whether they are the job-related hazards or the high frequency of deployments, he enjoys his life as an AMMO troop.

“You learn something new every day, and there are always opportunities to challenge yourself and get better,” he said. “There’s also the knowledge you are supporting a great mission. There’s no better feeling than watching a jet you load come back empty.”