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
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.”
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.”
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
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.”
percent accountability also means knowing all parts of
assigned weapons inside and out, said Cash.
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.
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
“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
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