JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, SC –
Before a patrolman, a canine handler or an entry point controller can do their job protecting the people of Joint Base Charleston, they must first visit the Airmen who provide them with the tools needed to do their jobs.
Nine Airmen safe house firearms, ammunition, night vision goggles or NVGs, and other tactical gear, and without them the 628th Security Forces Squadron's mission would come to a screeching halt.
The armories at the JB Charleston Air Base and Weapon Station house many types of firearms including M4 carbines, M9 handguns, M249 light machine guns, shotguns and even revolvers. The armorers are also responsible for the accessories which go on the firearms such as lights, sights and infrared sensors, peripherals which make a firearm a weapon system.
"In the armory, we are charged with maintaining millions of dollars worth of weapon systems, equipment and ammunition, and the safeguarding of these Air Force assets is our upmost priority," said Staff Sgt. Adam Thompson, 628th SFS Armory NCO in charge. "We provide the entire Security Forces Squadron on the installation the tools to perform security missions."
The armorers also maintain and check the functionality of every piece of equipment. Every six months, armorers disassemble the firearms for deep cleaning.
Airmen volunteer and are selected to become armorers and must undergo 60 days of on-the-job training to become one, training which includes weapons qualification t, a verbal and written test and a use of force exercise.
Misplacing or losing a weapon or even one round of ammunition is detrimental to the mission of 100 percent accountability Thompson said.
Firearm safety is a top priority in security forces and if any piece of equipment goes missing, the 628th SFS chain of command is notified, Thompson said.
"Even if one bullet is misplaced, we must notify our leadership and go through an investigation," he said.
"We man the armory 24-hours a day and transfer weapon systems and equipment in and out constantly, Thompson said. "Our customers range from security forces personnel patrolling the flightline, to air crew protecting aircraft, and even Airmen who live and keep personal weapons on base. No matter who we are working with, our priority is safety and we always ensure the individual receiving the weapon is qualified to operate the weapon system or equipment being issued."
According to Staff Sgt . Jonathan Breed, 628th SFS Armory assistant NCOIC, security forces personnel have a stricter set of rules to follow than most jobs in the Air Force and in civilian life.
"A police officer in a local community can take his or her assigned weapon to his home of residence, but a security forces member must check his weapon in and out of the armory each time he or she reports for duty and ends their shift," Breed said. "Keeping up with the equipment being checked in and out is a challenging part of ensuring the continuity of every single piece of Air Force assets."
And although keeping track of more than 3,000 assets can be a tedious endeavor, Thompson says his mission is a rewarding one.
"We act as a safety to those defenders who are protecting Air Forces assets and lives," Thompson said. "Without armorers, those defenders wouldn't be able to conduct their day to day operations which extend to missions worldwide."