BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Airmen assigned to the 455th Maintenance Squadron aren't just practicing total force integration during an exercise or at home, they are performing it for real in a combat zone and they are doing it as the U.S. Air Force gets smaller. They're proof that TFI works in the real world doing the real mission in a combat zone.
A team of 10 munitions systems airmen from three different bases and three different levels of service are responsible for making the bombs and ammunition that keep U.S. ground forces safe on patrols and convoys throughout Afghanistan with Close Air Support missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This group is comprised of active duty members and reservists from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri; Air National Guardsman from the 177th Fighter Wing, Atlantic City, New Jersey and the 187th Fighter Wing, Montgomery, Alabama.
Although diverse in backgrounds, the members have all come together with varied experiences to support a vital mission here.
"It's been a great experience working here," said Staff Sgt. Terrin Love, a munitions systems craftsman and native of Montgomery, Alabama. "I've worked with some really good people from Whiteman AFB and New Jersey. We've got active duty, guard and reserve out here and we've all meshed together to support the same mission.
"Our job is very important," added Love. "If we produce weapons that don't do what they are supposed to do, then the aircraft is flying for no reason. These munitions support all the troops on the ground, and if these bombs don't go off, then it's mission fail."
One of their responsibilities is building GBU-38 bombs for the F-16C Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable and proven air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack aircraft. The GBU-38 bombs are an essential part of the aircraft's weapon system.
According to most of these Airmen, they have a great deal of satisfaction in doing what they do.
"There's a lot of job satisfaction in this job," said Airman 1st Class Casey Cain, a native of Unionville, Missouri deployed from Whiteman AFB, Missouri. "You actually get to see your project at the end of the day. You start out with a bomb body and you add munition that can do anything you want depending on the configuration, and it's pretty cool."
The Total Force Integration Airmen look forward to aircraft returning without the bombs or ammunition that they have provided.
"When a jet comes back empty, it means everything functioned the way it was supposed to. It means that we did a good job. It means that everyone performed correctly and safely," said Senior Airman Christopher Reed, deployed from the 442nd Fighter Wing.
While the team follows the same technical order data to perform their tasks, there can still be differences in the way things are done, but in a TFI environment, they are able to learn from one another and make each other better.
"What's really cool about integrating reserves, guard and active duty from different bases is that you have a very diverse culture," said Reed, a native of Des Moines, Iowa. "When you have a diverse culture, you get to see things from different perspectives and when you have different views on things that are when improvements happen. That's when you start noticing problems with processes or with equipment and then you can work toward a goal to improve those processes and make them easier, make them faster, make them safe and more efficient."
"We've come together as a family, us active duty, reserve and guard members," added Reed.