The munitions shop keeps the birds of the 107th/914th Airlift Wings safe
By Staff Sgt. Peter Dean, 107th Airlift Wing
/ Published November 10, 2010
Niagara Falls, New York -- Incoming, incoming... bellowed over the flight crews intercom. Instantly the C-130 banked hard to the left and climb into the sky at such a steep angle that one would have thought they were on a rocket ship, simultaneously the onboard computer evaluated the threat and deployed countermeasures. @#&% that was close exclaimed the copilot. We're not out of the woods yet roared the loadmaster who was tracking the approach of another anti aircraft missile from the rear window of the aircraft, incoming 4 o'clock! The C-130 banked hard to the left again then back to the right tossing unsecured passengers and their belongings around like rag dolls. With each countermove the pilots perform, decoys shot from around the C-130. Burning at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit the M211 Decoys confuse the tracking systems of heat seeking missiles, sending them in a direction that renders them harmless to the aircraft.
Countless aircraft, aircrews and cargo have been able to make it to their destination or return home safely with the aid of decoys and flares. The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station Munitions Shop, a combination of 107th Airlift Wing Guardsmen and 914th Air Force Reservists work together ensuring that the aircraft deployed from Niagara are properly equipped to accomplish its mission and return home in one piece.
"We receive the mission requirements from ops, and build to suit their needs, each build is different depending on the anticipated threat," said Master Sgt. Patrick Lum the Munitions Accountable Systems Officer. "It could be flares or decoys, our shop does it all, we inspect, package, arm and install the completed modules onto the plane," he added.
According to Lum the complete process to protect just one plane can take up to 20 hours.
"Each mod holds 36 flares or decoys, and are located in pairs, in nine different locations around the plane. Each one needs to be armed with an electrical impulse cartridge and burped, (burping is a procedure that uses dental floss to remove air from between the M211 decoy and the impulse cartridge) very time consuming" Lum said.
Protecting aircraft is only a portion of the responsibilities of the munitions shop. The shop ensures that security forces have the ammo needed to maintain 24 hour base protection. They also order, store and issue all ammo that is required to keep base Airmen qualified on their assigned weapon.
"We order, store and issue every round that goes through this base, whether it be for training or real world, it needs to be accounted for," said Lum.
"When you guys go to Model City (our firing range) and you police your brass, we have to go through every spent shell ensuring that it is safe to send to DRMS (Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service) for recycling," said Lum. "We also have specific procedures for empty ammo cans, they all have to be opened, inspected and tagged as clear before they get sent to DRMS," he added.
"Our job is about safety," said Lum. "There are rules on everything from how much and what types of explosives can be store with each other, to safe handling and how many workers can be in the blast zone. For instance the procedure you just watched (loading of the decoys) worker have to be grounded and no cell phones, FOBs or other electronic devices can be within 10 feet. Every munition has its own specific handling procedure," he added.
"This is a small shop with a lot of responsibility" said Senior Master Sgt. Roger Rozon. "We've been working as a team long before the association," he added. The sergeant was referring to the2005 BRAC directive that the 107th and the 914th associate and work as one force. "We all wear the same uniform, we're on the same team," said Rozon.