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Close-knit Airmen have explosive mission

Senior Airman Teri Diemel, a munitions system apprentice with the 115th Fighter Wing, Madison, Wis. performs routine servicing on a munitions trailer.

Senior Airman Teri Diemel, a munitions system apprentice with the 115th Fighter Wing, Madison, Wis. performs routine service on a munitions trailer Sept. 19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Bell)

Munitions maintenance Senior Airman John Rench spray paints high intensity flares used on the F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Senior Airman John Rench, a munitions specialist at the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., spray paints high-intensity flares used in the units F-16 aircraft during a Unit Training Assembly Sept. 19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Bell)

Munitions maitenance specialists Staff Sgt. Matt Hamilton (left) and Senior Airman James Jacobson assemble a AIM-9 Sidewinder missile.

Staff Sgt. Matt Hamilton (left) and Senior Airman James Jacobson, both munitions mantenance specialists from the 115th Fighter Wing in Madison, Wis., assemble an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile Sept. 19. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Bell)

MADISON, Wis. -- Working in a world of their own behind steel doors, earthen bunkers, barbed wire fences and security checkpoints, a handful of Wisconsin Air National Guard Airmen have nearly $100 million worth of weaponry at their fingertips. 

The task for the nearly 60 Airmen working at the Munitions Storage Area here requires the highest level of attention to detail. 

"The $7 million MSA facility, built two years ago, is one of the finest in the Air National Guard," said Master Sgt. Don Rabitz, a munitions shop chief.
The MSA shops include control, accountability, inspection, maintenance, line delivery, equipment maintenance and precision guided munitions.
"We have separate shops but we all work in one joint effort," said Sergeant Rabitz.
Sergeant Rabitz is not alone in his assessment of the relationships at the MSA.
"We are a close-knit family," said Tech. Sgt. Scott Klobucher, the non-commissioned-officer-in-charge of munitions line delivery and equipment maintenance section.
From bombs to bullets, they supply the 115 FW with the munitions needed to fulfill the wing mission. Additionally, they support the Air Force's active duty munitions equipment needs.
Control receives munitions supports requests, accountability maintains the entire stockpile of munitions and inspection prepares weapons for safe use and ensures they are serviceable. Precision guided munitions tests, inspects and repairs all of the missiles used for the F-16s.
"Aircraft maintenance builds up the weapons," said Sergeant Klobucher. "They put fins on a bomb body, prepare 20mm ammo, and build different types of chaff or flare. When control requests munitions, line delivery transports weapons to the flight line."
During drill weekends, their remote location presents some unique challenges for those working behind the fence. It is often difficult to get the whole unit to the mess hall for lunch on Guard weekends, said Sergeant Klobucher.
"Instead of traveling to lunch to eat with the Wing, we make our own lunches together on drill weekends and even breakfast on Sunday mornings," said Sergeant Klobucher.
The close relationship of these men and women is evident both on and off base.
"We get together for dinner, play frisbee golf, and just like to hang out while off duty," said Sergeant Rabitz.
Recent deployments have lowered the number of Guardsmen working in the MSA but they are able to respond as the mission requires.
"We are handling the mission with a lot less people and that means everybody has had to step up and do extra work and everybody has been doing that," said Sergeant Klobucher. "We are taking on more responsibility and moving out of our 'comfort zones' and going to other sections to assist in whatever needs to be done."
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