BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Since the Air Force’s inception nearly 70 years ago, the image of aircraft overhead and the roar of jet engines may have fostered feelings of patriotism and instilled an indelible sense of security in many Americans.
Working behind the scenes to ensure citizens have placed their faith in a steadfast force, Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron here deliver the firepower that commands the respect of nations across the globe.
“Our job is extremely important to the Air Force mission,” said Airman 1st Class Vincent Martinez, 455 EMXS line delivery crew member. “Without us, there are no bombs. Without us, there is no airpower.”
Hailing from the 388th Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s Munitions Flight at Hill Air Force Base, Martinez and his fellow line delivery crewmates have conducted 741 real-world munitions deliveries valued at more than $75 million since their arrival in October.
“A lot of people are under the impression that bombs just magically appear on an aircraft,” Martinez said. “They don’t realize there are a lot of processes within the munitions career field, line delivery being the final step, that have to take place before a bomb is loaded onto an aircraft.”
The men and women of line delivery adhere to strict Technical Orders and regulations prior to, during, and following the transport of munitions. When traveling with thousands of pounds of explosives, perfection isn’t a goal, it’s an expectation.
“Expose the least amount of people to the least amount of explosives for the least amount of time,” Martinez said. “This principle governs everything we do. We can’t be sitting in the middle of a populous area with trailers full of bombs. When we travel, we use specific roads to get from point A to point B; we call it the explosive route. If we get the job done as quickly as possible and get the munitions to the safe zone, that’s the best we can do for our fellow Airmen.”
At the moment a munitions delivery is ordered, a chain of events is set in motion, events that must take place with the utmost precision and finesse to ensure the safety and security of the thousands who live and work on Bagram.
“When we get an order requiring a munitions delivery we have to first locate those specific bombs in our munitions yard or at the Ammo Storage Point,” Martinez said. “Once we’ve done this, we have to set up a crew book, conduct a crew brief, and roll out to the site for pick up. We have to check out the trailer in its entirety to make sure everything’s kosher, then we hook up to it.”
“Once we’re ready to go, we call in on the radio to communicate what we have and where we’re going with it,” Martinez continued. “Once we receive the go-ahead, we start making our way to the flightline. After we arrive, we contact the expediter, who lets us know where we need to be and when the load crew will arrive. The final step is accountability: We call in to let everyone know where the munition is because we have to maintain positive control at all times.”
Contrary to most stateside line delivery operations, there are no dry runs or training scenarios. Mission success can be measured in the continued suppression of terrorism, while mission failure can equate to devastating loss. When dealing with the highest stakes, standards and the caliber of personnel must be even higher.
“The intensity here is completely different than at Hill,” Martinez said. “Back home, it’s more of a training environment. Here, if they need a bomb, they absolutely need it as soon as possible. I derive my sense of satisfaction from seeing the bombs go up onto the aircraft and watching it take off at the end of the runway. When the planes come back empty, it means we did our job — and I take a lot of pride in the role I play in ensuring our nation’s security.”