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Teachers take to the field

OPERATION IRAQI FEEDOM - Tech. Sgt. James Sutton, 5th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight, builds a fuze for the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition March 23. Sutton is an instructor at the Air Force Combat Ammunition Center at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Currently the schoolhouse is closed and Ammo troops assigned to the 9th Munitions Squadron have deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett)

OPERATION IRAQI FEEDOM - Tech. Sgt. James Sutton, 5th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight, builds a fuze for the GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition March 23. Sutton is an instructor at the Air Force Combat Ammunition Center at Beale Air Force Base, Calif. Currently the schoolhouse is closed and Ammo troops assigned to the 9th Munitions Squadron have deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- They say those who cannot do, teach. But do not say that around the advisers from Ammo U, who just arrived at a forward-deployed location to give, and get, an education.

The 40 or so airmen from the Air Force Combat Ammunition Center at Beale Air Force Base, Calif., have closed the school and moved the classroom closer to the fight. They are working in every area of the munitions flight here, tracking and building munitions in every phase of a bomb's life.

"There are a lot of ammo troops deployed all over the world right now," said Senior Master Sgt. Mike Potratz. "Those that are home are doing double duty for those who are deployed. No students, no school." Potratz was the school superintendent; here he is the munitions flight's day-shift supervisor.

The school staff gets to practice what they teach. They will take their wartime experience back to those who need it most -- the students.

"Normally we stay home and don't get to go anywhere," Potratz said. "This is our opportunity to get out of the classroom ... and into the fight."

Tech. Sgt. James Sutton said he's happy be on the build pad again.

"The camaraderie, the feeling of being part of a team -- you just can't get that in the classroom," he said. "With each new class you start over, and by the time everyone starts to click, the class is over.

"Here we're as close to the mission as you can get," he said.

Back at Beale, the airmen teach a combat-ammunition planning and production course. It consists of two weeks of academic instruction followed by a week-long "practical" exercise. During the academics, students write their own munitions employment plan that they use during the practical phase.

"(The center) is a learning environment for second-term airmen and junior (noncommissioned officers) and a refresher for mid-level NCOs and senior NCOs," Potratz said. "We get everyone from the three-stripers all the way up to chiefs." The classes also have four company-grade officers for a total of 70 students in each of the nine classes per year.

The school also has a two-day course for officers. It trains squadron, group and wing commanders and headquarters-level staff officers in the ways of the ammo world. The officers have the opportunity to experience the daily life of an ammo troop in a typical contingency environment.

Each class culminates with a mass munitions buildup operation called "Iron Flag." After the class is over, the bombs must be disassembled and put back into storage for the next class.

That is what Airman 1st Class Jake Sutton does for every class. It is his first Air Force assignment, so being deployed here is the opportunity to see how things work in the "real world."

"I'm really excited to be here," he said. "At Beale we tear down after the ... class builds up. Here we build, and they don't come back."

Since building bombs is the central point of any ammo troop's life, wartime is a chance for them to shine.

"During peacetime, we don't get very much attention," Potratz said. "But during wartime, everyone quickly realizes the importance of what we do day in and day out. That's what keeps us going."

After their deployment is over, the airmen will return to Beale and pass on lessons learned to their students. They will be able to give the Ammo perspective from experienced eyes.

Not only do these ammo troops teach, they can do.

Engage

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