Without the munitions systems specialists of the 1st Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron, the AC-130U Spooky would have difficulty completing its close air support mission, to include supporting troops in contact, convoy escort and single point air defense.
Airmen of the 1st SOEMS munitions flight are responsible for every step in between shipping and receiving, to testing and assembling guided and unguided non-nuclear munitions for the Spooky payload. They are also responsible for issue and delivery, storing, maintaining, and reconditioning these munitions to support the 1st Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Force mission.
“I’d say we process an average of 30,000 rounds per week,” said Senior Airman Alexander Bien, a 1st SOEMS conventional maintenance crew chief. “Every 25mm load is a thousand pounds, and that’s not accounting for the 40mm or the 105mm.”
It all starts with the 1st SOEMS munitions controllers, the liaisons between the organizations requesting the ammo and the Airmen within the munitions storage areas that maintain it.
Munitions controllers work with about 100 people daily, generating all munitions requests on base.
“As a munitions controller, we coordinate, direct and control all munitions activities to and from the flightline, within the MSA and anywhere on base,” said Staff Sgt. Landon Mace, a 1st SOEMS munitions controller. “We have a handful of organizations that we deal with on a daily basis, and we coordinate anything with munitions through the control office.”
After receiving the requests, the munitions controllers will forward them to a conventional maintenance dispatcher.
When Senior Airman Micheal Mehren, a 1st SOEMS dispatcher, receives requests, he schedules work orders and determines the manning and equipment needed to complete the mission.
“Daily, I schedule all the work for the following week to support the flying schedule,” Mehren said. “I set up jobs for crew chiefs to complete and make sure the tools they need are in usable condition.”
Once the schedule is made, the conventional maintenance crew chiefs get to work by inspecting the rounds and preparing them for transport.
Senior Airman Alexander Bien, a conventional maintenance crew chief, loads thousands of 105mm, 40mm and 25mm rounds by hand.
The 25mm is the largest of the three. Each container can hold more than 1,000 rounds weighing a pound each, and the team can load up to five containers per day.
More than 70 Airmen assigned to the munitions flight work around the clock to ensure the Spooky’s continued success and distinguished combat history.
“When something real-world happens these Airmen are reactive,” said Master Sgt. David Veliquette, the 1st SOEMS conventional maintenance element chief. “They’re ready at all times to help provide combat-ready forces.”