31st MUNS provides precision execution for mission

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Matthew Lotz
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
When a jet takes off from Aviano loaded with munitions in support of an operation, the Airmen from the 31st Munitions Squadron know they've done their job.

Charged with assisting the two fighter squadrons assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing, more than 250 active duty personnel maintain and support a combat ready stockpile of munitions and equipment.

Within the squadron are six flights that are responsible for armament, production, materiel, weapons, systems and programs. Each flight is responsible for critical steps in the process of completing their mission.

"The process in which all bomb building takes place starts and ends with systems," said Master Sgt. Tobby Hughes, 31st MUNS systems flight chief.

The systems and control flight coordinates, trains and manages all personnel and taskings. They are also responsible for directing all munitions to the proper location. They coordinate with liaisons such as the fire department, carabinieri, Italian air force and any other outside agencies while transporting any weaponry. When a deployment comes up, systems personnel are the first to setup and coordinate what the MUNS needs to perform that mission.

"Systems is the voice of the chief and the eyes and ears of the commander," said Master Sgt. Shea Bert, 31st MUNS control section chief.

"We are the command post of the bomb dump," said Hughes. "We make sure production has everything they need and make sure it's on time out in the field."

While the systems flight ensures the planning and preparation of the munitions, the materiel flight is responsible for tracking, delivering, inspecting, and storing a multi-million dollar stockpile of munitions. Airmen from this flight are key to the squadron as they provide munitions storage for approximately 32 outside agencies and supply base defense munitions to explosive ordnance disposal, the inspector general and the U.S. Army. They also ensure all munitions are accounted for correctly and accurately.

"We are down to the bullet for accuracy," said Senior Master Sgt. David Nichols, 31st MUNS materiel flight chief. "If we miss a bullet, we are doing paperwork and going back to account for everything."

The MUNS is not only accountable for the munitions; they are also responsible for the production of all munitions.

The production flight is where the munitions are assembled. Before releasing the munitions to be put on the aircraft, Airmen perform a final check to ensure the munitions function properly. If even a small screw is missing from a bomb, the production must start back at the beginning to ensure it was built correctly.

In 2011, during operations "Odyssey Dawn" and "Unified Protector," the MUNS production line built more than 1,500 air and ground munitions in support of these operations.

Finally, when all munitions have been inspected and given the green light, they are then transported to the armament flight to be loaded onto the aircraft.

The Airmen from armament are responsible for loading all weaponry onto the aircraft, performing function checks and any last minute maintenance. With jets flying around the clock, Airmen from MUNS are always on hand to ensure munitions are available at any time. In case of a munitions malfunction, the armament Airmen are on call to troubleshoot the problem and get the munitions back to the jet.

"Most of the time we can take the munitions equipment to our back shop," said Senior Airman John Heaton, 31st MUNS armament systems specialist. "But in case of an emergency, we operate on the flightline."

Thanks to an active flying wing, the 31st MUNS is always busy and working around the clock. An Air Force instruction states, "Personnel selected for munitions control duties must adapt well to stress."

While the job may be stressful, the MUNS personnel do their best to keep their morale high.

"To give positive morale around one, big family, we use temporary duties, deployments and barbeques as incentives," said Hughes.

"The best part about our job is seeing an aircraft takeoff with our bombs attached to the wing," said Heaton.