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Ammo airmen build munitions for war

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Tech. Sgt. Douglas Jones, munitions troop with the 5th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, loads a fuse into a GBU-31 joint direct attack munition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Tech. Sgt. Douglas Jones, munitions troop with the 5th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, loads a fuse into a GBU-31 joint direct attack munition. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristina Barrett)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- After two weeks of waiting, munitions airmen at a forward-deployed location began working day and night building M-117 and 85 GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munitions for the "shock and awe" phase of the war in Iraq.

Arriving at this location March 6, members of the 5th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight are finally able to do what they are trained to do: build the bombs that are an integral part of the Air Force mission.

"Putting bombs on target is the aircrews' ultimate mission, and without Ammo troops, there's no mission," said Senior Master Sgt. Mike Potratz, deployed from Beale Air Force Base, Calif.

"What we're doing here is as close as you can get to the ultimate mission," said Tech Sgt. James Sutton, also from Beale.

Getting close to the mission is what each one of the more than 140 airmen will be able to do because building bombs is a team effort.

"It takes a team of eight people an average of about two hours to build a load of 12 JDAMs," Sutton said. "We have a crew of 16 people out here on the build pad."

The team works together assembling 14 pieces into four components, which make up the JDAM, a Global Positioning System-guided "smart bomb." They start with a 2,000-pound MK-84 "dumb bomb." A fuze, fin kit, sensor and other components are assembled and attached to the bomb, turning it into the JDAM.

The tedious work leaves no room for error, but error is not an issue, according to Chief Master Sgt. Ricky Quattlebaum, the munitions flight chief who is deployed from Minot AFB, N.D. "Our people train for this continuously; now they get to do it for real," he said. "This is what we train and live for."

The fruits of their labor will be evident in the current military operation. The bombs they build will be used in combat, not on a bombing range, or, left to be downloaded, disassembled and returned to stock.

Although most of the airmen were not aware the bombs they were building would be used so soon, deep down they know what they are doing is for real, said Senior Master Sgt. Gregory Western, also deployed from Beale.

"The troops sensed there was something happening. They kept asking when they'd get to build," Western said. "When we finally got the word from (2nd) Lt. Francisco Vega, munitions flight commander, the troops got extremely pumped up. What they came here for was now a reality."

As the airmen watched the aircraft lift off the runway March 21, pride was evident, as was an American flag one airman waved as each plane took off.

Sutton put it simply: "Ammo pride."

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