Bomb’s away: Airmen provide the goods to ensure timely, precision munitions delivery

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- On a normal day at the 62nd Maintenance inspection. Squadron's munitions control center, Senior Airman Raymond Altamirano rarely has a minute of free time. Ringing phones, squawking radios and the giant computer screen on the wall all fight for the young Airman's attention. 

"The job in the control center is very similar to that of a 911 operator," said Master Sgt. Wesley Colberg, 62nd MXS. "It's a high pressure position." 

In addition to coordinating and overseeing the pickup and drop off of all the base's munitions, Airman Altamirano is also in charge of the coordination of the emergency management issues if an explosive device were to detonate. 

"We need to let [emergency responders] know who needs to be evacuated and what routes they can take to get to the accident and where to route people," Airman Altamirano said. 

While attention to detail is paramount in the control center, it is also a common theme throughout the 62nd MXS' munitions flight when it comes to inspecting explosives upon arrival, tracking their every move or storing them in one of the 13 earth-covered igloos. 

In the munitions maintenance section, Airmen track and maintain each shipment of countermeasure flares delivered to the section. The section also builds and configures each flare can, which maintainers install in each C-17 Globemaster III. 

"We touch every single movement of a flare," said shop chief Henry Van Wormer, 62nd MXS. 

The location and status of each flare is important because each has an expiration date. The ability to track the flares also makes it easy for the section to locate a defective batch if a recall is sent out, Mr. Van Wormer said. 

"That flare can be the saving grace for an aircraft, so it's very important that it does its job," he said. 

But before the flares and any other deliveries even get to munitions maintenance or their final destination, Airmen in the munitions inspection section carefully unpack each shipment and check to see if everything is accounted for and make sure nothing has been damaged or been recalled, said Tech. Sgt. Robbie Romines, 62nd MXS. 

The process entails doing a thorough check while maintaining the utmost respect for the power of the cargo. 

"You have to be careful because you have the safety of the whole shop in your hands, but it's neat because you get to see what each explosive does and how it works," said Staff Sgt. Blaine Tschida, 62nd MXS. 

The Airmen also spend time sifting through spent ammunition casings to make sure there are no live rounds left before the shells are sent to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office. From the coordination of the pickup and drop off to the maintenance and accountability of the base's munitions, the munitions section works to make sure each explosive is carefully looked after, stored and maintained throughout its time at McChord.