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Investment in national security

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier
  • 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
While some may think that the gap between the civilian and military sectors in national security has grown over the years, an inside look at a defense factory proves how valuable they are to one another.

Col. Jefferson O’Donnell, 366th Fighter Wing commander, and fellow Gunfighters were able to visit those in the civilian sector who directly contribute to the defense of the nation last week when they toured defense contractor factories in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Just seeing The F-15 line and how it literally starts with a sheet of metal,” said Captain Todd Johnston, 389th weapons system operator. “There are thousands of small details that go into it, I had no idea the amount of time that goes into every little thing to make sure we are safely operating,”

During the tour members of the 366th Fighter Wing visited the factories that build two of the main contributors to the recent success on the last deployment, the F-15E Strike Eagle factory and munitions factory.

O’Donnell explained that during the 389th Fighter Squadron’s deployment they dropped an average of one munition an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Totaling 5,018 munitions dropped over a six-month period at a 99 percent success rate.

Caleb Bolthouse, 366th Equipment Maintenance Squadron ammo production supervisor, explained that what he really liked seeing downrange is aircraft taking off fully loaded and coming back with no munitions remaining.

“We know that something that we put our hands on went out and did the job it is supposed to do,” he said.

With numbers like this being produced it has placed a demand on larger quantities of munitions needed.

“The customers are in need of more product and we are here to provide it for them,” said Shawn Cline, defense contractor munitions mechanic.

This success has been reoccurring for Gunfighter country and can be directly attributed to the men and women working at defense contractors’ factories.

“It’s pretty awesome being able to talk to everybody and meet them and hear the stories,” said Travis Bauer, defense contractor munitions mechanic. “It makes you feel pretty good about yourself when they come in here and explain what they have done with the weapons you have built.”

Kline explained with the increased demand in weapons they have recently hired more employees and have implemented a third shift to meet all standards and safety requirements that the customer demands and provide it to them in a timely manner.

In the last two years the defense contractor has increased everyday production from 40 units a day to 155 units, and are projecting to produce 180 units and beyond next year.

From laser guided joint direct attack munitions to small diameter bomb munition technology, the development of defense weapons over the past few years has been significant.

Charlie Davis, small diameter bomb program manager, explained that the additional collaboration between the warfighter and the defense contractor has allowed them to enhance and expand the capability of their weapons system. The SDB miniature munition technology is now even more focused on minimizing collateral damage and the addition of wings provide an enhanced range capability.

Early in the life of JDAM it was identified that there was a need to be able to go at targets of opportunity, either moving or stationary. Defense contractors invested over $30 million to increase its effectiveness by creating laser-guided capabilities—now the weapon of choice by the warfighter, Davis explained.

Working together, the development of security for the nation is made possible by both men and women in and out of uniform.

"America's defense industry is an integral member of our national defense team, every member of a winning team deserves the opportunity to feel proud of who we are and what we do,” O’Donnell said. “Our visit allowed Airmen at the tip of the spear to shake hands with those Americans who craft the spear."