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Bagram ammo Airmen bring the boom to combat airpower

Airman Morgan Matteson, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight apprentice, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, builds a GBU-54 500 pound bomb at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2015. The AMMO flight provides necessary weapons and countermeasures required to project combat airpower. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Airman Morgan Matteson, a 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight apprentice, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, builds a GBU-54 500-pound bomb at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2015. The ammo flight provides necessary weapons and countermeasures required to project combat airpower. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

Staff Sgt. Samuel Percy, left, and Staff Sgt. Bryce Billingsly, both from the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight and deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, work on a GBU-54 500 pound bomb at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan Nov. 17, 2015. The AMMO flight provides necessary weapons and countermeasures required to project combat airpower. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Staff Sgt. Samuel Percy, left, and Staff Sgt. Bryce Billingsly, both from the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight and deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, work on a GBU-54 500-pound bomb at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2015. The ammo flight provides necessary weapons and countermeasures required to project combat airpower. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

Staff Sgt. Samuel Percy and Airman Morgan Matteson, both from the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, assemble a GBU-54 500 pound bomb at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2015. The AMMO flight provides necessary weapons and countermeasures required to project combat airpower. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Staff Sgt. Samuel Percy and Airman Morgan Matteson, both from the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight, assemble a GBU-54 500 pound bomb at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2015. The AMMO flight provides necessary weapons and countermeasures required to project combat airpower. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

Airman 1st Class Deshawn Hill, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight journeyman, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, tightens a fuze while building GBU-54 500 pound bomb at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2015. The AMMO flight provides necessary weapons and countermeasures required to project combat airpower. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau/Released)

Airman 1st Class Deshawn Hill, a 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight journeyman, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, tightens a fuse while building GBU-54 500-pound bomb at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 17, 2015. The ammo flight provides necessary weapons and countermeasures required to project combat airpower. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Rau)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- In a far corner of the base, behind fences, checkpoints and armed guards, rests one of the most explosive places on Bagram Airfield.

Filled with tons of bombs, missiles and ammunition, the Airmen of the Munitions Storage Area, or “bomb dump,” provides all the necessary weapons required to project combat airpower.

“We provide reliable munitions to accomplish the mission and to keep the pilots safe,” said Senior Master Sgt. Antonio Cousin, the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron munitions flight chief. “Our goal is to give our pilots the weapons to impede and engage the enemy. And the munitions stockpile is an avenue to achieve that goal.”

To keep the stockpile combat ready takes effort and a team of motivated Airmen. One of them, Airman Morgan Matteson, a 455th EMXS munitions systems apprentice, is on her first deployment and less than eight months out of basic training.

“I am loving this deployment,” she said. “We have a higher tempo here, meaning the more we build the more they drop. I get to do things here that I don’t get to do at home station.”

While providing weapons to the pilots in order to execute the mission is paramount, Matteson also gets the added benefit of learning her job through this unique opportunity.

“After the mission, my priority is learning my career development course books,” Matteson said. “This deployment gives me a hands-on experience, and that is extremely helpful in learning my job.”

Developing these Airmen and facilitating munition builds falls to front-line supervisors like Staff Sgt. Chris Rintelmann, a 455th EMXS munitions systems craftsman, who is on his fourth deployment. It is also his job to connect his team to the mission.

“I am entrusted with making our new Airmen better at their job, and giving them new career experience,” Rintelmann said. “I make it a point to remind them that without ammo, the pilots can’t be driving back enemies; the guys on the ground need us.”

In just over a month, Rintelmann’s team has built, inspected or rebuilt more than 60 GBU-54 500-pound bombs, and the pilots have dropped them with a perfect 100-percent detonation rate.

But being a munitions Airman is more than just building bombs and training for tomorrow’s conflict. Cousin explains that it’s also about fellow wingmen and ammo pride.

“I have been set up with an incredible team of top-notch Airmen who have been pedal to the metal since we arrived,” Cousin said. “We train all the time for this, and there are no blue bands (inert bombs) here, only yellow ones (live rounds).

“We are a results-based organization, and we take great pride in that.”

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