KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Ammo Airmen, also known as 8th Maintenance Squadron munitions flight Airmen, are one of the primary reasons why Kunsan's aircraft deters enemies.
"The munitions mission at Kunsan Air Base is to support the flightline efforts to keep the peace in this region," said Senior Airman Kevin Merkel, 8th MXS munitions conventional maintenance crew chief. "We do everything from inspecting to maintaining, ensuring ammunition remains safe."
Merkel continued to say that while their mission involves countermeasures for all aircraft at Kunsan, the real meat and potatoes of the munitions operations are bombs, especially during exercise generations.
"We are extremely busy during exercises," said Merkel. "We run two 12-hour shifts and basically build bombs all day. While busy, it's actually great training for the new guys. Once built, the bombs are inspected and guaranteed to be 'up to snuff', and then we'll just tear them down and repeat the process."
Merkel said they support operations for anything with an explosive on it, including everything from pepper spray to 2,000-pound bombs. With such a large area of responsibility, the munitions unit is comprised of seven different shops to include conventional maintenance, precision guided missiles, storage, inspection, accountability, control and combat plan and scheduling.
The immense responsibility of leading the building of bombs is only given to Airmen after more than a year of intense training.
"Our technical school is eight weeks long," said the bomb builder. "Once we complete technical school, we receive on-the-job training for no less than a year to be able to perform job duties without supervision."
While these Airmen are busy and their career field is stressful, they are still happy and proud to be ammo.
"Basically, what we do is put warheads on foreheads - without us it's just another airline," the munitions crew chief said. "Ammo is a very tight-knit career field."
"It's a f'ammo'ly," said Staff Sgt. Aaron Raboin, 8th MXS munitions production supervisor. "Everyone from our chief to our youngest Airman will get together and do ammo calls - morale is like the best at this base. We just foster that family concept within ammo."
"It's that one career field in the Air Force I feel people really 'rep' it," said Merkel. "Especially senior leadership - when the chief is gung-ho about it, then the Airmen have no choice but to be. I would have to say the best part of ammo is being ammo."
Not only is morale one of the best parts of being an ammo Airman, but also just the mission of the unit is enough to make one enthusiastic about their job.
"We build bombs - we are integral to the Air Force mission," said Raboin. "We provide the enemy the opportunity to die for his or her country. We protect everyone. Just knowing the damage our munitions can do - there's a lot of pride in that."
While all squadrons play a part in accomplishing the Air Force mission, this flight directly enables the Air Force to demonstrate its air power on a daily basis. As long as the munitions flight is around, the Wolf Pack can rest easy knowing these Airmen are working around the clock, ensuring the Air Force is always prepared to flex its muscle, if ever needed.