Inherent Danger: A Critical Career
By Story by Staff Sgt. John Wilkes, 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard
/ Published February 07, 2017
02.07.2017 -- “Working with any type of munitions is inherently dangerous,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Denig, munitions facility production supervisor assigned to the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard. “Airmen at our munitions facility in Swanton, Ohio, work tirelessly to ensure pilots have the munitions necessary to respond quickly and precisely, at home and abroad, for training and combat engagements.”
Here at the 180FW, munitions systems specialists procure, inspect, store, recondition, issue, transport, maintain, test and assemble GPS/laser guided and unguided munitions for the wing’s F-16 Fighting Falcons.
The typical day of a munitions systems specialist varies greatly from base to base and mission to mission, to include loading an F-16 fighter jet with AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, loading an A-10 Thunderbolt with 30mm high-explosive incendiary rounds or assembling bombs for the B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber.
According to the U. S. Air Force, Airmen work with the most advanced munitions in the world, along with the jet fighters and bombers that use them. And since the U.S. Air Force presence spans the globe, you could be assigned to support U.S. military aircraft anywhere from Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, to Yokota Air Base, Japan.
“We have approximately 50 Airmen who love what they do,” Denig said. “The work they do is very rewarding and they know what they do is important to the success of the 180FW.”
The munitions team is responsible for supplying munitions to multiple sections throughout the wing, including security forces, wing safety office and the wing’s primary weapon system – the fighter jets.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a highly versatile aircraft with one 20mm Gatlin gun with a capacity of up to 500 rounds; external mounts that can carry up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods. The maximum payload is two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, two AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missiles and two 2400-pound external fuel tanks.
In 2016, the 180FW expended more than $3 million dollars in munitions during training and combat operations.
“Due to the inherently dangerous nature of working with munitions, Airmen must be very professional and remain up to date with current training processes and procedures,” said Denig.
According to Denig, the 180FW munitions facilities and personnel are among the best in the Air National Guard and will serve as a model for all Air National Guard installations to emulate.
Not only is the team proud of their members and facilities, they are also very proud of the family atmosphere they have built, a necessity for the type of work they do.
“We have a very tight-knit group of Airmen,” said Senior Airman Steven Welling, a munition systems specialist who has been with the 180FW for three years. “During my recruitment process I came to the munitions facility for a tour and the family atmosphere was the first thing I noticed. Everyone is very passionate about their jobs and loves what they do.”
The tight-knit environment is not only important in the workplace, but also with the Airmen’s families as the team is essential to the 180FW mission and are tasked to deploy frequently. During a deployment, family is an essential source of support for Airmen.
“Anytime a deployment opportunity arises we have so many volunteers we often can’t take everyone,” said Denig. “That says a lot about the pride and passion that we have for what we do.”
Though the job requires the team to work in a dangerous environment, both at home and abroad, the ANG is also focused on the success of the Airmen in their civilian lives and career goals.
“I have been in the Air National Guard for three years now and have been going to school for two years,” said Welling, who is a nursing student at the University of Toledo in Toledo, Ohio. “I am able to accomplish both of my goals because of the flexibility and benefits of being in the ANG.”
An added benefit of the ANG is that required military training can often apply credit hours to civilian college degree programs or contribute to earning a degree from the Community College of the Air Force.
Munitions systems specialists complete a 43 day technical school which awards 16 transferable college credits and gives them the knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform their job. Following technical school Airmen go through more specialized training for their functional area as well as on-the-job training.
“I absolutely love it,” Welling said. “Every day is different from the weapons system that you are working on to the new and improved weapons systems that are always being developed. I come out here every opportunity I get.”
The munitions systems specialist field is currently a critical needs career. Being deemed a critical needs career field means there is a higher need for recruitment into that job and select monetary bonuses may apply outside of the college tuition in the state of Ohio and Montgomery G.I. bill that assist National Guard Members pursuing college education.
For more information about the munitions systems specialist career field or to learn more about opportunities at the 180FW, visit http://www.goang.com/ or call 419-868-4469.