WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. - Defenders are on the flight line protecting assets 24/7. In order to perform that mission, they need to be equipped with the necessary weapons and ammunition.
That is where the 509th Security Forces Squadron armory becomes critical to the battle.
Airman Brandon Swisher, 509th Security Forces Squadron response force member, counts M240 machine gun rounds in the armory during his 12-hour shift at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 25, 2013. The armory is a safe and secure location on base to store weapons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Wilson)
“We maintain accurate accountability for all munitions, weapons, ammo and equipment that we have,” said Staff Sgt. Derin Cash, 509th SFS assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of the armory. “In addition, we ensure each flight member gets the correct weapon, and that individuals who aren't assigned weapons don't get weapons.”
To accommodate the squadron's mission, a team of 10 security forces members are responsible for ensuring the armory is manned at all times.
“Without us, everything in the security forces mission realistically wouldn't run,” Cash said. “Airmen need weapons to fight, radios to be able to talk to each other and night-vision devices to be able to see during nighttime conditions. Without us doing our job, it would greatly impact a defender's ability to do his job.”
Knowing the whereabouts of more than 1,000 weapons valuing in excess of $5 million means keeping track of every weapon is the most important part of an armorer's mission, said Senior Airman Brian Winker, 509th SFS armorer.
“I have to make sure all of the M4 carbines that were out on post came back, as well as issue hand receipts for weapons supplied by the armory,” Winker said. “I also make sure all rounds of ammo issued to airmen are returned.”
The armorers in the squadron spend most of their time ensuring weapons and equipment are operational before they give them out, Winker said.
“I get everything ready for the oncoming flights so that when they arrive, we can make the process go as quickly and as smooth as possible,” he said.
“The individuals who work in the armory are airmen who want to branch out and see other sides of security forces in their career path leading to combat arms,” Cash said.
“Airmen wanting to work in the armory submit a resume to me and I evaluate their math skills and their ability to problem-solve,” Cash said. “Based on what they show me, I have to feel confident that they can work back here without supervision.”
Attention to detail is a character trait that airmen working in the armory need to have to perform the job, Cash said.
“It's pivotal because that's the one thing that will make or break an individual working back here,” Cash said. “Not performing this job correctly could cause someone to go to jail, because one item missing means something that's a part of the military inventory is gone and could be investigated. If a gun goes missing, that's a huge deal for everybody in our squadron.”
Not only do security forces members store weapons for people working in the squadron, but they also house weapons for those who reside on base.
“Anyone living in the dorms who own a weapon stores it here,” Winker said. “Reservists and airmen preparing to go on deployments can store their weapons here, as well.”
Keeping 100 percent accountability also means knowing all parts of assigned weapons inside and out, said Cash.
“Knowing every part of our weapons help us identify when something is wrong so we can catch it and correct the issue,” he said.
Cash said he gains a great deal of satisfaction after a full day of working in the armory compared to some of the other SF jobs for which he is responsible.
“I prefer doing something hands-on rather than sitting security and just watching the fence line,” Cash said. “The sense of accomplishment comes from making sure things get done so those who are out on post can do their job. It makes me feel like I'm giving the Air Force the best for their dollar with what I do every day.”
In addition to weapons and ammo, squadron armors are also responsible for equipment such as night vision goggles, hand-held thermal imagers, batons, pepper spray and Tasers. Since the supply section of the squadron is responsible for assigning initial equipment, the armory takes care of duty-specific items that are used in daily missions.
“Depending on where they are going to be posted, we give troops equipment specific to those posts,” Cash said.
Whether issuing equipment or maintaining accountability of weapons, members working in the armory are providing service to those who defend Whiteman's gates.
“We're the behind-the-scenes step to the mission.” Winker said. “We make sure everything is ready for when the flights need to go out, accomplish the mission and fight the good fight.”
By USAF Staff Sgt. Nicholas Wilson
Provided through DVIDS
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