KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - The work is hot and dusty for the "Ammo Dawgs" of the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing currently assigned to the 451st Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron here, and though it occurs behind the scenes it's crucial – others count on it.
Supplying firepower to South Carolina Air Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons, these Airmen work tirelessly here at the Tri-national Ammunition Supply Point, ensuring that ground forces can rely on the air support overhead to put the firepower where it's needed.
"We build the bombs that make the planes lethal," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Wendell Rollins, a munitions specialist from the 169th Fighter Wing at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C. "There are times we load an aircraft and we know in just a few minutes it is going to take off for a mission."
The ordinance is a life saver for the guys on the ground and the Airmen who build the munitions know their work can mean life or death for Soldiers and Marines who need the ordinance to work right the first time and every time.
The mission of the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing is that of a persistent powerful presence, and the members of the 169th Fighter Wing, who are deployed here in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, are at the leading edge of that mission. The "Swamp Fox" F-16 pilots provide close air support and their role is critical to the ground troops they may never meet.
Work goes on around the clock at the Tri-National Ammunition Supply Point seven days a week, building primarily GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions and GBU-54 Laser JDAMs. They also work with anything on the F-16 including 20mm rounds, chaff, and flares.
Since the "Swamp Foxes" have rotated to Kandahar Airfield in April they have built more than 25,000 pounds of munitions.
"It is serious business," said Air Force Senior Airman Sherman Padgett, a munitions specialist also currently assigned to the 451st EMXS. "Someone is counting on these bombs, and if they don't function then our guys could be dying."
The hard work of the munitions troops is not lost on the pilots who count on the work.
"The people in munitions are directly responsible for the confidence the guys on the ground have in Vipers' efficiency in close air support," said Air Force Capt. John Sparks, an F-16 pilot with the South Carolina Air National Guard's 169th Fighter Wing deployed to Kandahar Airfield. "A lot of trust is put in the weapons working the correct way the first time."
This critical work will go on as long as there is a need and the Airmen who work in munitions will press on knowing the importance and value of what they do.