Luke munitions: providing firepower

Five hundred pound live explosive bombs are prepped at the Munitions Assembly Conveyor (MAC) at the munitions storage area by 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron's munitions conventional crew members at Luke AFB, Aug. 31.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ronifel Yasay)

Five hundred-pound live explosive bombs are prepped at the Munitions Assembly Conveyor at the munitions storage area by 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron's munitions conventional crew members at Luke AFB, Aug. 31. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ronifel Yasay)

Staff Sgt. Gerald Taylor, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance production manager, inspects his handy work on a 500 pound MK-82, a general purpose bomb, at the munitions storage area Aug. 31.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ronifel Yasay)

Staff Sgt. Gerald Taylor, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance production manager, inspects his handy work on a 500-pound MK-82, a general purpose bomb, at the munitions storage area Aug. 31. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ronifel Yasay)

Staff Sgt. Gerald Taylor, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance production manager, crimps arming wire on a MK-82, 500 pound general purpose bomb, at the munitions storage area at Luke AFB, Aug. 31. This 500 pound live explosive's fuse is set for 6 seconds upon impact and covers 4,000 feet.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ronifel Yasay)

Staff Sgt. Gerald Taylor, 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron conventional maintenance production manager, crimps arming wire on a MK-82, 500-pound general purpose bomb, at the munitions storage area at Luke AFB, Aug. 31. The live explosive's fuse is set for six seconds upon impact and covers 4,000 feet. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ronifel Yasay)

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- What makes an F-16 Fighting Falcon a force to be reckoned with? Is it the aviator who pilots the aircraft -- partly, yes. Is it the aircraft itself or the people who keep it functioning -- again, partly yes. But it's the bullets, bombs and missiles that fire from the F-16 that inflict damage upon the enemy.

Luke has 220 men and women that ensure the delivery of quality munitions to the flightline, as well as other areas on base, to support the training of the world's best F-16 pilots and maintainers - they are the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight.

"We have the largest munitions stockpiles in the Air Education and Training Command," said Master Sgt. Mark Jackson, 56th EMS munitions storage NCO-in charge. "We supply more munitions to the flightline than any other munitions area in the command, and we fly more sorties in one day than any other fighter wing does in a month."

In fact, Luke's stockpile possesses 3,600 line items and is currently valued at $71 million. Not to mention, Luke expends more ammo than the Pacific Air Force and United States Air Force Europe commands combined, according to Sergeant Jackson.

"We primarily deal with MK-82 munitions, 2.75 mm rockets and chaff and flare for the flightline," he said. "We additionally have 46 munitions accounts where we support 9mm and M-16 training, Honor Guard, security forces (combat arms training marksmanship,) egress and explosive ordnance disposal units. If you want to see just how busy the people at the munitions flight really are, just look at how much ammo we used last year." 

For fiscal 2008, Luke's munitions expenditures totaled $580,809.

There are nine sections that are responsible for all that goes on within the flight to include control, accountability, storage, inspection, precision guided munitions, conventional maintenance, line delivery, equipment maintenance and support.

Twice a year the munitions flight undergoes a 100 percent inventory inspection - an inspection that generally takes two weeks to accomplish and effort from every division.

"The importance of the 100 percent inventory inspections are to ensure that we are accurately accounting for the munitions," Sergeant Jackson said. "This not only includes the munitions to train the pilots on the flight line, but also entails accounting for all the munitions on the installation to include unserviceable assets. This validates that we have what we're supposed to have in our inventory and did not lose anything from negligence."

Recently, Luke went through a base wide Unit Control Inspection where the munitions flight received an "excellent" rating that was partly due to their inventory inspections.

"It is very important that we show the Inspector General our auditable records so they can see when and where our munitions are going, and how they are being inspected," Sergeant Jackson said. "If we fail to prove this, it would show that we do not have control of our stockpile and it could potentially shut the wing down."

The Thunderbolts of the munitions flight gear up to begin their inspection task that starts the first week of September.

"There is no doubt that the men and women of the 56th EMS Munitions Flight will continue to perform outstandingly and keep contributing to the success of Luke," said Chief Master Sgt. Gary Easter, 56th EMS Munitions Flight chief.