Airmen maintain national defense in weapons storage area
Separated from the rest of the base by miles of fence topped with razor wire and high-tech surveillance equipment, certain Airmen here see few people during the duty day other than their military counterparts


By by Airman 1st Class Ross Tweten, 5th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Posted Thursday, April 21, 2005

  
Airmen maintain national defense in weapons storage area
MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Senior Airmen Justin Decker (left) and Shiloh Feigley examine an air-to-ground missile in the weapons storage area here. The B-52 Stratofortress can hold up to 20 of these missiles. The Airmen are missile and space systems electronic maintainers with the 5th Munitions Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ross Tweten)


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4/21/2005 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFPN) -- Separated from the rest of the base by miles of fence topped with razor wire and high-tech surveillance equipment, certain Airmen here see few people during the duty day other than their military counterparts. For that, their daily efforts go largely unnoticed.

They are Airmen assigned to the 5th Munitions Squadron, and once inside their weapons storage area, the reason becomes clear for the isolation and protection – they keep the missiles working.

And their work is extremely rewarding, they said, because of their direct effect on national defense.

“When a missile comes into the shop with a failure, and I finally figure out the problem and fix it because of the training I’ve received, it’s very satisfying,” said Senior Airman Justin Decker, a missile and space systems electronic maintainer. “It feels great to know that I’m responsible for that missile being able to fly.”

Airman Decker’s duties for maintaining the air-launch cruise missile and the advanced cruise missile include changing out jet engines, flight controls and explosive components, programming computers and doing body work and paint touch-ups.

He said he loves what he does and would not change anything about his job.

“The fact we have so many things we’re involved in with the missile makes the job very interesting,” Airman Decker said. “We’re not just an engine shop, we do all the operations on the missile, and just knowing how everything works is fascinating.”

Many of the Airmen said apart from the in- and outprocessing at the entry-control point, working in the storage area is not much different than working elsewhere on base.

“When I first came here, I had no idea what the WSA was about or how to inprocess,” said Senior Airman Charley Young, who supports the Minuteman III ICBM weapons system. “For the first month, it was weird, but now I don’t think about it. I think it’s cool having security forces monitoring the WSA at all times. You get a good feeling knowing they’re here to protect you and the weapons.”

The storage area here is similar to those at other bases, said Staff Sgt. Melissa Newell, the squadron’s verification checkout equipment team chief.

“The WSA here was not new to me,” she said. “I’ve worked at Ellsworth’s (Air Force Base, S.D.) WSA, and it’s surprising how similar they are. We don’t get to move around much in this career field so I also see a lot of people here I knew at Ellsworth. You get used to working in the WSA very quickly.”

Sergeant Newell said the best part of the job is when something actually comes together, and it works like it is supposed to.

“When you put all the pieces together, and your end result is a missile or piece of equipment that’s up and running that wasn’t before, it’s very rewarding,” she said.

Sergeant Newell and Airman Decker said their respective jobs can get frustrating, but the end result is always worth the hard work.

“What we do is critical to national defense, and we treat it as such,” Sergeant Newell said. “And even though it takes a little longer to getting in and out of work, in the end we turn our wrenches just like everybody else.”


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