Small munitions flight makes big difference
YOKOTA AIR BASE, JAPAN -- Being the airlift hub of the Pacific, Yokota is not known for fighters dropping missiles or bombers dropping 2,000 pound bombs from the heavens, but it does have an important mission of providing combat ready troops to deployed locations and humanitarian relief to those in need. Even bases with a focus on airlift require small explosives and you'll find just that here.
Hidden behind grassy hills, rusted fences and hundreds of feet of open space is the 374th Maintenance Squadron Munitions Flight, a shop of 11 Airmen who are responsible for the storage and handling of explosives here.
"The munitions flight has a wide foot print across the wing," said Master Sgt. Donald Baum, 374 MXS munitions superintendent. "We deal with everything from flares and fire extinguishers for the C-130 [Hercules] to small arms munitions for security forces."
The munitions housed at Yokota support training for 17 units, including combat arms training, the Office of Special Investigations, aircrew life support and even the Bird/Wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard Program.
"For us, it is mainly small arms munitions used for training and for mobility operations," Baum said. "That is our bread and butter for the most part. We also have K-9 kits that allow the military working dogs to be qualified to sniff out explosives."
According to Baum, munitions flights' manning and mission are very dependent on the type of aircraft supported by the base. He added that many munitions Airmen here come from a background dealing with fighters and bombers, but being here, at the airlift hub of the Pacific, and working with C-130 Hercules, it is a different pace.
Although airlift missions don't call for large bombs or missiles, there is a lot of training for personnel to provide combat capable forces to deployed locations and to assist in base defense.
A large aspect of the munitions flight is maintaining their inventory and its credibility. Staff Sgt. James Stinson, 374th MXS senior munitions inspector said, every month, the flight inspects 10 percent of its in-house stockpile. Twice a year, they shut down operations to inspect all munitions. Inventory inspections focus on accountability.
"We ensure the item is where it should be," Baum said. "We check between the computer system and our physical inventory to make sure it matches. We also check storage boxes to make sure it is serviceable. Then we match the quantities with what it states in the system."
Baum said if their system is tracking 100 blocks of C-4, during the inspection they should find 100 blocks.
Stinson said inspections also allow the team to find munitions discrepancies and either repair or replace the item. The discrepancies searched for differ depending on the item and its designated technical order, but in general, Baum and his team search the inventory for visual defects, corrosion or dented casings.
The munitions work done at Yokota ties directly into the safety of the aircrews here and the base defense, according to Baum.
"The guys out here come from different backgrounds, bases and experience levels, but they come together to get the mission done and do it well," Baum said.