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Munitions Airmen support pilot training

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kathryn R.C. Reaves
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
High above their various training grounds, 20th Fighter Wing F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots navigate the skies in simulated battle, deploying munitions, such as inert bombs, and using their M61A1 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannons to strike targets.

Upon their return to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, the jets are reloaded with munitions in preparation for the pilot’s next task.

Airmen assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance flight work day and night to ensure aviators have all the ammunition they need to hone their skills.

“If they’re flying during the day, then we’re going to be working all day,” said Airman 1st Class Cory Smith, 20th EMS conventional maintenance crew chief. “If they’re flying during the evening, we’re going to be working all evening. It’s 24-hour manned operations.”

Members of the ammo family prepare a range of munitions, from 20 mm rounds to guided bomb units.

From assembling, storing, maintaining accountability and transporting the munitions, the Airmen take responsibility for munitions from their shops until they have been delivered to the aircraft for loading.

“If we don’t get the ammo out on time … it’s going to slow down operations,” said Senior Airman Zachary Manzella, 20th EMS conventional maintenance crew chief. Manzella later added, “We deliver the air power to the aircraft and give those aircraft the ability to execute the targets. It’s a good feeling.”

By enabling this home station training, they ensure pilots and ammo Airmen can execute deployed missions with proficiency to minimize the risk of dangerous errors.

“We practice like we play, so when we go down range, we can do the real thing,” said Smith. “You practice as a team so you don’t mess up. When people mess up in our career field, they can get hurt.”

With continued support from munition experts, pilots assigned to Shaw’s three fighter squadrons can continue training and navigating the sky, practicing for perfection.

“This job is what you make of it, but I think there’s a lot of satisfaction in the fact that what you do is directly reflected in the world,” said Manzella.