JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
Airmen of the 3rd Munitions Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, are becoming vastly more effective and lethal due to a regimen of training on bombs used in different locations.
The 3rd MUNS primarily builds bombs for the F-22 Raptors based here – their bread and butter are the 1,000-pound guided bomb units called GBU-32s. Because they could be deployed or on temporary duty working with other aircraft, they’re now working with 11 different bombs and variants, making them more effective, more quickly.
The morning of Dec. 18, a crew was at the Bomb Assembly Pad putting together a 2,000-pound penetrator bomb – a GBU-31 version 3.
Air Force Master Sgt. Anderson Flansburg, a native of Germantown, Tennessee, who has been at JBER for two years, was leading the crew.
“If we go on a contingency operation, we could be on the same base with F-15 [Eagles] or F-16 [Fighting Falcons], or unmanned aerial vehicles. We’d be building assets like this. In the desert, targets are often in bunkers or hidden, so this [GBU-31] is the real workhorse – pilots like these.”
Most bombs have a fuse on the nose; when the bomb impacts the ground, it explodes. Penetrator bombs have the majority of their weight in the front end, so they pierce the ground or bunker before the delayed fuse at the back sets it off.
Some bombs are designed to be low-drag; others are high-drag. Knowing the variations is critical, as pilots may request changes at the last minute due to mission needs.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Juan Cardona, a native of San Sebastián, Puerto Rico, is the crew’s inspector, ensuring everything is up to specifications.
“Equipment-wise, there’s a difference [from the GBU-32]. They’re heavier, and it’s a penetrator bomb we don’t normally deal with. The Airmen are really excited; we just received kits for a lot of bombs, and they’re ready to learn and build.”
Cardona said it takes only three or four iterations of assembling a bomb for the Airmen to get to grips with each variant’s quirks.
Munitions Airmen attend technical school at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and learn the basics of most types of bombs, but like most schools, the real learning begins at their first duty station. To reach craftsman, or 7-level, they will need to be well-trained on all the munitions and variants.
“This is really bridging that experience,” Flansburg said. “We’re training people well before they go to that 7-level school.”
Airman 1st Class Preston Jarrell, a native of Heflin, Alabama, has been stationed at JBER for less than a year.
“This is really getting me prepared for deployment,” Jarrell said. “It’s good practice for future shops, too; we did this in tech school, but this is substantially different. The best part of the job is getting to see and work with things that many civilians never would.”
Not only does the training help the 59 Airmen on the team individually, it helps keep Alaska aircraft lethal.
“It really shows leadership’s vision,” Flansburg said. “The mission is developing from air-to-air [with F-22s] to taking an even more active role in the Pacific region. If we deploy, we’ll be using these. These Airmen can integrate into any deployed unit in the world.”
It can also provide assistance closer to home.
“We can integrate with Eielson a lot more,” Flansburg said. “The F-35 [Lightning II]s and F-16s stationed there use bombs we don’t, so learning this makes us more synergistic with them.”
Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Dunham, a Salem, New Jersey native, said the capabilities make the squadron 800 percent more effective. More than 10,000 extra components are available for making the variety they need.
“It should help tremendously,” he said. “The F-22 is primarily an air-to-air fighter; it’s not great for ammo troops’ training.”
The Airmen will be doing training builds weekly to stay compliant, lethal and ready.