649th MUNS delivers improved readiness

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HILL AIR FORCE BASE — Have you heard the saying that starts with, “If you ain’t Ammo …”? One tongue-in-cheek response is, “then you’re waiting on them.” The universal response cannot be printed here.

Ammo troops worldwide take their “If you ain’t Ammo …” mantra seriously. Here, for the munitions unit headquartered on the base’s northwest side, pride is fierce and continuous improvement is a normal part of operations. These distinguishing traits are vital to the munitions community and the customers they serve.

As part of the Air Force Sustainment Center, the 649th Munitions Squadron’s more than 200 active-duty, reserve and civilian Airmen are different from traditional Ammo units. At any other Air Force installation with a flying mission, Ammo troops build and deliver munitions for aircraft on the flightline. For 649th MUNS, the world is their flightline. The squadron’s men and women have become experts at providing “World-Class Munitions Support to the Warfighter,” sustaining Air Force, Department of Defense and allied warfighters all over the globe. 

Over the past 12 months, the unit’s self-developed munitions expertise resulted in greater military capability and improved readiness at less cost … a key AFSC goal. To continue exceeding this goal, the unit has implemented Continuous Process Improvement initiatives in a few of its primary mission areas. 

The unit’s Standard Air Munitions Packages mission involves placing bombs, missiles and bullets onto aircraft pallets for shipment via cargo aircraft to warfighters around the globe. Recently, the unit looked at all areas of the STAMP mission with the goal of adding efficiency. 

During one CPI, team members focused on redesigning long-standing missile shipment configuration processes. By completely redesigning the configuration, the team found they could use the same number of pallets while increasing the number of missile containers placed on them. This small, yet significant, change allows the space inside cargo aircraft to be used more effectively. By implementing the change, team members cut in half the time necessary to complete a mission while eliminating the need for what amounts to an entire C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft, a high-demand airframe that can now be “given back” to the Air Force for use elsewhere.

Munitions Airmen are also looking at ways to improve their bomb-related STAMP missions with the goal of saving time and possibly eliminating the need of yet another C-17. To date, the squadron’s Airmen have cut the time required to generate a bomb shipment from 96 to 82 hours, but they are looking to do more.  

“Our goal is to generate an entire tasking in 48 hours or less,” said Capt. David von Adelung, 649th MUNS operations officer. “We’re not there yet, but we have been steadily gathering data to guide our decisions and are heading in the right direction.”

The unit does not intend to keep its successes secret. Representatives are currently drafting their results into Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures, which will help other munitions units have similar success.

Another area for improvement involved the unit’s Army Munitions Depot mission.

The depot team, comprised of 51 reserve Individual Mobilization Augmentees, sustains the vast majority of Air Force munitions stored at four large Army depots located in four states. Since the depots do not have active-duty Airmen assigned, the IMAs handle all of the Air Force’s bulk munitions purchases; they also manage all excess and unserviceable munitions from bases across the Air Force.

Last year, the Global Ammunition Control Point, part of the Air Force Lifecycle Management Center here, needed a time-critical operation completed at one of the depots. To give the warfighter flexibility, the GACP needed the depot’s small-diameter bombs to be disassembled and placed into a shipment configuration. Upon receipt, this would allow warfighters at deployed locations to configure the munitions as needed without having to undergo a lengthy disassembly process. 649th MUNS’s obstacle was a lack of necessary IMA manpower days needed to complete the disassembly operation. 

To ensure these critical munitions remained on track for delivery to the warfighter, the squadron broke away from the normal IMA mold and created a mixed team of IMAs and active-duty Airmen. This first-ever joint team’s IMAs provided familiarity with the munitions and geographic area, while their active-duty counterparts, who were not limited by manpower day shortages, provided additional labor. The result was a team with enough manpower and expertise to execute the mission. 

“Whereas the prebuilt configuration would only be efficient if all the loaded munitions were expended, the unbuilt configuration allows munitions and weapons personnel to reload exactly what is needed,” said von Adelung. “This saves our deployed personnel vast amounts of time and allows quicker turnaround times. The need for these munitions was pretty evident considering current world operations.”

Another recent CPI resulted in speedier logistics. 

The unit’s Cartridge and Propellant Actuated Devices and egress support mission represents the bulk of its peacetime operations. From Hill AFB, 649th MUNS provides the actuating munitions for aircrew egress and fire suppression systems to maintenance units across the globe, enabling them to effectively return aircraft to a mission-capable status.

To speed up the munitions shipment process, 649th MUNS looked at private-sector logistics practices.

“Taking a page from powerhouse logistics companies like FedEx and UPS and leveraging existing SharePoint technologies, we recently completed our own global shipment tracking system,” said von Adelung. “This gives our customers near-real-time visibility of shipment processing and has resulted in a 50 percent drop in status inquiries for us. Less time on the phone means more time processing munitions for shipments, which ultimately helps the squadron achieve its shipping goal of getting munitions booked to the right place at the right time.”

The mission of the United States Air Force is to fly, fight and win, and 649th MUNS is a vital contributor. With the unit’s innovations and continuous improvements, warfighters are benefiting from greater capabilities and improved readiness at less cost.

“The unit’s unique worldwide munitions support mission provided tremendous opportunity for success, resulting in 649th MUNS earning its seventh straight Headquarters Air Force Materiel Command Maintenance Effectiveness Award in 2015,” said Maj. John Hampel, 649th MUNS commander. “Yet, instead of resting on past accomplishments, the hard-working members of 649th MUNS are generating new improvements to increase the speed and cost effectiveness of munitions operations, ultimately enabling the Air Force and partner nations to fly sorties and drop bombs on target in less time and with lower costs!”