GWANGJU AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
A munitions Airman wakes up to begin his shift in a small barracks he shares with four others. Before breakfast, he puts on more than his work uniform. He’s preparing for a contingency scenario by donning chemical protection gear and keeps a gas mask at his waist.
He walks outside to a downpour of rain. For the next 12 hours, he will build munitions for simulated combat missions.
He’s intentionally been given sparse resources and must work with his team to assemble and disassemble multiple munitions. He will be closely inspected on the proficiency of his performance.
Pacific Air Forces munitions and weapons Airmen experienced these unique challenges during the annual Combat Ammunition Production Exercise, which is designed to test the Airmen’s production capabilities in a simulated austere environment, at Gwangju Air Base, May 5 to 9, 2018.
CAPEX 2018 introduced a series of challenges for the Airmen, including the use of Mission Oriented Protective Posture chemical gear to be donned throughout the exercise.
Gwangju Air Base, an operating location of spartan resources, provided the perfect location to test the determination and ingenuity of the Airmen when given scare resources to work with.
“The number one priority is to say, ‘How do we need to adapt ourselves in order to be able to operate out here in the future?’” said Lt. Col. Adam Rector, 3rd Munitions Squadron and CAPEX 18 commander for munitions production and inspection. “What lessons learned do we have? What limiting factors are we running into at the end of the day?”
These questions provide a foundation for determining what is needed to operate in a more challenging environment.
“It’s one thing to sit down and map it out on paper. It’s an entirely different thing to be sitting in the driver’s seat, moving bombs along those road ways, dealing with communication with radios and getting traffic going back and forth…” said Rector. “We’re accounting for all the intangibles that can’t necessarily be caught on paper.”
Airman 1st Class Tony Rodgers, 366 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, remained motivated despite the challenges.
“I love loading weapons,” said Rodgers. “The environment and the weather have definitely been a challenge. It’s a rainy day today and wearing chem gear can make slipping a possibility. Safety is number one.”
Since the exercise focused on munition building, loading the weapons onto an aircraft was not required, and after inspection, all munitions were disassembled.
Although ammunition production exercises are a routine occurrence around the command, the training and perseverance of the Airmen will no doubt give them a more realistic expectation of operations and will provide higher headquarters with valuable feedback for planning, logistical and infrastructural support on the Korean peninsula.