Kadena squadron keeps munitions flowing
By FRED ZIMMERMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 30, 2004
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — More than 500 18th Munitions Squadron personnel built 116 pallets of missiles, bombs and other munitions during an operational readiness exercise that began Saturday and is expected to last until the end of the week.
The task was part of a basewide exercise, according to Air Force officials.
The troops’ work went on behind-the-scenes in the massive 6,082-acre munitions compound here, said munitions squadron commander Lt. Col. Thomas J. Noon.
Noon said few people realize the size of the compound, which sits on the North side of the Kadena runway and hosts more than 100 miles of roads and 574 facilities, more than 250 of which are munitions “igloos.”
“This is the biggest bomb dump in the Air Force,” Noon said. “We have a saying — we’re the biggest, baddest and best.”
On a daily basis, they support 18th Wing F-15 fighters.
But Chief Master Sgt. Greg Duncan said they also support the Pacific theater with a war reserve.
“Of all the munitions in [the Pacific Air Force], 27 percent of them are here,” Duncan said.
He said if war were to break out in the Pacific, the squadron would transport munitions by air, followed by a steady flow by sea; the squadron could have munitions anywhere in the Pacific theater in several hours.
Several sections help accomplish the mission.
The Precision Guided Munitions section assembles, maintains and tests all kinds of missiles, said Tech. Sgt. Donald Butler, the section’s assistant noncommissioned officer-in-charge. The stockpile is worth more than $367 million, according to a squadron fact sheet.
The munitions get from the igloos to the battlefield courtesy of the “outload” section. Duncan said the section packages the missiles and bombs, puts them on pallets and straps them down.
It has an $850,000 wood shop where personnel build all their own pallets and crates, Duncan said.
Noon said the outload section also has 800 International Standards Organization shipping containers personnel can stuff when they send munitions by ship.
The Air Force’s only bomb renovation plant also is housed in the compound. The section keeps all conventional bombs ready by making sure the bombs are corrosion-free.
But maintaining and supplying munitions isn’t the only thing the “bomb dump” does.
Noon said there are more than 800 farmers who grow crops on the land and there are 28 sacred sites on the grounds that are available to local Okinawans. Noon said the only restriction on the sites is that families must be escorted while in the compound.