Without weapons, it's just another airline
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Inside an ordinary building near the flightline a select group of Airmen are assigned the task of maintaining weapon systems, which when used inside combat aircraft have a devastating effect on the enemy.
These maintainers from the 51st Munitions Squadron armament flight keep the F-16 Fighting Falcon and A-10 Thunderbolt II weapon systems operational day and night.
"After missions these weapon systems are completely broken down, overhauled and inspected," said Staff Sgt. Robert Taylor, 51st MUNS F-16 armament floor chief. "We ensure they are fixed, clean and reassembled properly to maximize our combat effectiveness when they are used again. The amount of work we do on a daily basis can seem overwhelming sometimes, but we realize it's due to the high operations tempo we have here in South Korea. As long as we come into work every day and do our best, we know we will be able to meet any challenge that may occur."
The 51st MUNS armament flight is split into two departments: the A-10 section and F-16 section. This allows airmen to specialize on each individual weapon system.
"It's not an easy job by any means; there is a constant flow of equipment maintenance and inspections which require our attention," said Staff Sgt. Cody Hamilton, 51st MUNS aircraft armament systems journeyman. "Our motto is 100 percent, by the book. This ensures our fellow Airmen on the flightline know the weapons we fix and inspect are ready to be loaded into jets for mission success. It's all about teamwork."
A-10s are inspected on their 30-mm gun, feed and handling system, ammunition loading adaptor and triple ejector rack.
"These weapon systems are what make our aircraft extremely deadly and formidable," said Hamilton. "Our team is just one piece of what it takes to sustain combat and maintenance operations here."
The 20-mm gun inside the F-16s, air-to-air missiles, and conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions are all inspected and maintained as necessary.
"These guns are quite an effective weapon for the pilots when they are out on missions," said Taylor. "We have to make sure they are functioning at 100 percent because any error could potentially have disastrous consequences."
To ensure an operative, realistic and robust role in readiness, the armament flight cautiously expedites equipment to the flight line crews.
"We get the aircraft guns back out onto the flightline as quickly and safely as possible," said Hamilton. "Safety is our number one priority. In this career field, we really have to do things by the book and focus on safety every day. I am constantly working with my Airmen to ensure they are safe and accurate. When dealing with weapons systems, any lapse or negligence could mean someone gets hurt or worse. For me, safety is vital to being a successful armament shop."
Hamilton further explained that the technical manuals weapons Airmen use are constantly updated to provide the most current information to maintainers.
"We are fixing and inspecting extremely dangerous weapon systems and there is zero room for error," said Taylor. "This is why safety is paramount for us and why proper instruction to new Airmen is so important.
"I love teaching and supervising Airmen," he continued. "It's very rewarding for me to train brand new Airman properly over the course of a few months and then watch as they are able to complete any task assigned to them quickly and efficiently. I find immense satisfaction in knowing what we do makes a difference in executing combat operations across the globe."