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Darby Support Team Brings Firepower
by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cary Smith
February 10, 2018

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Minutes from the Pisa International Airport and the city of Livorno, Italy, tucked away in a stretch of woodland, sits the largest stockpile of conventional munitions within U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

At any moment, the 731st Munitions Squadron at Camp Darby must be able to supply a multitude of munitions to U.S. and NATO bases. Fortunately, the 731st MUNS has a unique framework of a dozen career fields to help provide the means to take the fight to the enemy.

November 30, 2017 - Precision guidance munitions crew chief Airmen from the 731st Munitions Squadron set up and inspect a munitions stand at Camp Darby, Italy. Inspections are performed on a regular basis to ensure munitions are serviceable and able to be shipped. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)
November 30, 2017 - Precision guidance munitions crew chief Airmen from the 731st Munitions Squadron set up and inspect a munitions stand at Camp Darby, Italy. Inspections are performed on a regular basis to ensure munitions are serviceable and able to be shipped. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cary Smith)

Embedded within the squadron are aerospace ground equipment Airmen, vehicle maintenance technicians, finance personnel, communications, and even medical technicians.

These sections work with the ammo troops to ensure Darby is capable and ready to provide firepower to support USAFE, or any combatant commander lucky enough to receive their aid.

If an order comes through to Darby, ammo troop Airmen will ready shipping containers, but to do so requires the help from other sections in their squadron, such as aerospace ground equipment.

“As AGE, we’re normally in a maintenance flight, but here at Darby, we’re directly plugged in with the 731st,” said Tech. Sgt. Philip Tunstall, 731st MUNS AGE section chief. “We provide the ammo troops with power generators, lights, heating and air equipment; pretty much any and everything.”

When munitions are shipped from Darby, Tunstall works closely with the inspection and munitions maintenance sections to power the test and maintenance equipment and to pressure wash the shipping containers.

“Before any missiles can ship, the containers must be absolutely clean inside and out,” said Tunstall. “We recently received two more pressure washers that stand six feet tall and more than 10 feet long, so we can now increase our mission capability for large orders.”

During shipments, vehicles receive the brunt of wear and tear because Airmen travel around to the many bunkers housing stockpiles of munitions. Instead of working in a logistics readiness squadron, the vehicle maintenance crew at Darby are assigned to the 731st MUNS.

“We maintain Darby’s fleet of vehicles, including several forklifts and semi-trucks that we help certify Airmen to operate,” said Staff Sgt. William Peters, 731st MUNS ground transportation training and validation non-commissioned officer in charge.

The vehicle maintenance crew gathers their tools and follows the munitions storage section Airmen during large munitions shipments. If any vehicles were to break down, the crew could provide repairs on the spot.

Working in a geographically-separated unit doesn't just require well-oiled equipment—Airmen need tune ups as well. Tech. Sgt. Leslie Charles and Brett Randall, 731st MUNS independent duty medical technicians, are responsible for handling all the medical needs of Darby's personnel.

“As IDMTs, we’re typically attached to small units, but with as many Airmen as there are here, we handle everything under the sun,” said Charles. “A typical week includes everything from pharmacy to water testing to minor trauma accidents. Sometimes we have to be creative with how we provide help with the resources we have.”

Charles said during hers and Randall’s careers as IDMTs, they’ve used a wire shower shelf with towels and duct tape to splint a broken leg, turned an IV bag into heat and ice packs, and made a patient litter out of uniform tops and mop handles.

This support to the mission could not happen without a budget. All the contracted civilian employees, deliveries, equipment purchases, and transportation fees are finalized by one finance Airman.

“Here at Darby, I do all things finance from helping an Airman with issues in their paycheck to briefing the commander on fiscal budgets,” said Tech. Sgt. Otis Smith, 731st MUNS financial manager. “My job here is very unique, and requires me to be proactive, not reactive; sometimes digging into maintenance technical orders or instructions to better understand our budget and what equipment we need.”

Smith sees himself as the glue that helps hold the mission together, providing support in a wide range of duties to a large group of personnel.

“We are a big family here with an open door policy to help each other out. Everyone has to do their part and take up several responsibilities to complete the mission,” said Smith. “Every day I come in and my job requires something different from me, makes me learn something new, and I love that.”

The 731st MUNS will continue to band together and maintain their munitions, readying USAFE's largest stockpile for the next outload. Airmen and allies alike can rest assured Darby's team is there, making sure USAFE has combat-capable firepower ready to boom whenever, wherever.

By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Cary Smith
Provided through DVIDS
Copyright 2018

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