Munitions troops play key role in air refueling

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. John Winn
  • 151st Air Refueling Wing

SALT LAKE CITY – An often-forgotten specialty in the refueling community is the munitions systems specialist, known as “Ammo Troops” throughout the Air Force. Although munitions specialists aren’t typically thought of when it comes to the air refueling mission, they serve a vital role within the unit that can easily go unnoticed.

“The biggest difference between here and being active duty is no one knows we’re here,” said Master Sgt. Jesse Connerly, munitions flight chief assigned to the 151st Maintenance Squadron. “We’re a bit under the radar, which is good and bad. When I was first assigned here, I was initially going to cross-train into being an electrician in civil engineering. I didn’t even know there was ammo here until I met a guy who was in this shop who was leaving, so I transferred back here to his spot.”

A typical “bomb dump” is staffed with 100 to 250 Airmen. At Roland R. Wright Air National Guard base in Salt Lake City, a small team of two works in an even smaller office in a munitions inspection building on the edge of the base’s footprint.

Connerly, who has served with the Utah Air National Guard for 13 years following six years on active duty, says he enjoys the mission.

“We’re one of the few units that actually have their own EOD [Explosive Ordnance Disposal] unit, and they’re now a regional training center for other Guard units and active-duty EOD units,” said Connerly. “They’re bringing guys out to Camp Williams for their field training exercises a couple of times a year, so we support that a lot.”

With just two full-time employees and an additional drill status Guardsman, the munitions specialists store everything from smoke grenades to ammunition and training items for units like the EOD flight, the bases Security Forces Squadron and more.

“Everything’s just a little bit different [here],” said Tech. Sgt. Zachary Dewitt, munitions inspector with the 151st Maintenance Squadron, “Everyone’s so close here; it’s like a family.”

For example, when the Munitions Flight received new explosive storage magazines, everybody pitched in to help.

“We had a lot of different people show up. We had maintainers, and I think we even had some cops, “Dewitt said, “if it was just us, it would have taken us days to do it by ourselves. We couldn’t have done it without everyone else.”

In less than a day, members of the 151st Maintenance Squadron came together to help the ammo troops unload and reload smoke grenades, ammunition, and various explosive training items from one set of explosive storage magazines into new ones. More than 700,000 rounds were moved in and out of the munitions storage structures.

“I think they enjoyed it,” said Dewitt. “Most people don’t know we’re here. They got to come see all this stuff, and some of the people thought this was the coolest thing.”