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Service members, defense contractors contribute to national security

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho (AFNS) -- While some may think the gap between the civilian and military sectors in national security has grown over the years, an inside look at Airmen and defense factory collaboration demonstrates just how valuable they are to one another.

A team of aircrew and maintainers had the opportunity to discuss the success of a recent record-breaking deployment with those in the civilian sector who directly contributed to the defense of the nation, when they toured defense contractor factories in St. Louis.

“Just seeing the F-15 line and how it literally starts with a sheet of metal,” said Capt. Todd Johnston, an Air Force weapons systems officer. “There are thousands of small details that go into it, I had no idea the amount of time that goes into every little thing to make sure we are safely operating.”

During the tour, Air Force members visited the F-15E Strike Eagle and munitions factories, which were two of the main contributors to the most recent F-15E deployment successes.

Col. Jefferson O’Donnell, the 366th Fighter Wing commander, explained that during the 389th Fighter Squadron’s last deployment, aircrews dropped an average of one munition an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, totaling 5,018 munitions dropped over a six-month period at a 99 percent success rate.

With numbers like this being produced it has placed a demand on larger quantities of munitions.

“The customers are in need of more product and we are here to provide it for them,” said Shawn Cline, a defense contractor munitions mechanic.

The re-occurring F-15E successes can be directly attributed to the men and women working at defense contractors’ factories.

“It’s pretty awesome being able to talk to everybody and meet them and hear the stories,” said Travis Bauer, a defense contractor munitions mechanic. “It makes you feel pretty good about yourself when they come in here and explain what they have done with the weapons you have built.”

With the increased demand in weapons, Kline explained they have recently hired more employees and plan to continue to grow while meeting all warfighter standards and safety requirements, and provide products to the Department of Defense in a timely manner.

In the last two years the defense contractor has increased everyday production from 40 units a day to 155 units. From laser-guided joint direct attack munitions to small-diameter bomb munition technology, the development of defense weapons over the past few years has been significant.

Charlie Davis, the small-diameter bomb program manager, explained the additional collaboration between the warfighter and the defense contractor has allowed them to enhance and expand the capability of their weapons system. The SDB miniature munition technology is now even more focused on minimizing collateral damage and the addition of wings to products like the JDAM provide an enhanced range capability.

Early in the life of the JDAM, there was a demand to be able to go after targets of opportunity, either moving or stationary. Defense contractors invested millions of dollars to increase its effectiveness by creating laser-guided capabilities — now the weapon of choice by the warfighter, Davis explained.

Working together, the development of security for the nation is made possible by both men and women in and out of uniform.

"America's defense industry is an integral member of our national defense team, every member of a winning team deserves the opportunity to feel proud of who we are and what we do,” O’Donnell said. “Our visit allowed Airmen at the tip of the spear to shake hands with those Americans who craft the spear."