Beyond question, General Marquez understood a peacetime atmosphere is not a good training ground for the rigors of wartime munitions tasking orders. He also understood, before it was too late, before we had lost much of the expertise in producing massive frags gained during the Vietnam War, that we needed an institution that perpetuated the knowledge we had gained and helped preclude some of the disasters we had experienced. AFCOMAC perpetuates that knowledge and provides a scenario where in a peacetime world AMMO troops get a real-world feel for the demands of a wartime environment.
The following Beale AFB News Article came out in 2006 – on the 20th anniversary:
AFCOMAC celebrates 20-year anniversary
Posted 10/6/2006 Updated 10/6/2006 Email story Print story
by Airman 1st Class George Cloutier 9th RW Public Affairs
10/6/2006 – Beale AFB, Calif. — One of Beale’s least known units in
fighting the Global War on Terror is celebrating its 20th anniversary today.
The 9th munitions squadron, or the Air Force Combat Ammunition Center, has consistently provided the Air Force with the finest training for ammo troops for two decades, teaching Airmen the skills they need to take the fight to the enemy.
AFCOMAC is a mandatory course for those in the munitions career field who are training for their seven and nine-level status.
“When you look back at the history, AFCOMAC was started because of the draw back that happened after the Vietnam War, because there weren’t as many people putting bombs together in a combat setting,” said Maj. Jeffrey Stremmel, AFCOMAC commander. “Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez put together an action team to look at this, and the team came back to him with the idea for AFCOMAC.”
One of the major faults the action team found with the training munitions troops were receiving was the fact that there was little to no realistic training taking place, according to Major Stremmel.
“General Marquez then told his team to build the bombs for real, and they found out they lacked that vital skill,” said Chief Master Sgt. Patrick Adams, AFCOMAC munitions superintendent. “The bottom line is that they were not able to build the bombs as they would need to in a real combat setting.”
After it was realized that ammo troops lacked such critical skills, AFCOMAC was set up to give troops the realistic training they would need to perform in a real wartime scenario.
“This program was originally introduced to the Air Force in 1986, when it was at the Sierra Army Detachment in Herlong, Calif.,” said Senior Master Sgt. David Nixon, AFCOMAC munitions flight chief.
While much has changed in the munitions world over the years, the core facets of the training program have remained intact.
“From the outside, you might not think the program has changed all that much,” Chief Adams said. “If you just measured the number of bombs with the number of days in the exercise, if you look at it in numbers, you might think it hasn’t changed at all.”
Though on the outside the program may seem the same, AFCOMAC has stayed up to date with the latest munitions technology, according to Chief Adams.
“Back when I first came through, we were in the middle of the cold war and were making a lot of dumb bombs,” he said. “Seeing it again I’m just amazed at how this school has managed to help stay in touch with the Air Force munitions mission.”
“One of the ways the school has managed to stay in touch with the Air Force mission is by the emphasis the course now puts on smart munitions,” Major Stremmel said. “As the years have gone by, we’ve developed more varieties of smart weapons.”
When the school made the jump to smart munitions, other facets of the course changed as well.
“One of the major changes we made in the late 90s was doubling the number of students that made precision guided munitions,” the chief said. “We were trying to get 60 to 70 percent of our munitions to precision guided munitions. When we made that change, we doubled the amount of people we were putting through the course. Our classes now have 70 Airmen each.”
Since then, AFCOMAC students have used the knowledge they obtain from the course to rain fire on the enemy, according to the major.
“I know we’ve provided realistic training to the career field supporting combat operations,” Major Stremmel said. “When Al-Zarqawi was taken out in June, it was done with two 500-pound bombs. The professionals who put those bombs together came through this school.”
Students and instructors of the school have also contributed in other ways over the years as the war on terror has raged on.
“When Desert Storm started, the school was closed down, and they sent AFCOMAC down range to build bombs and run operations,” Chief Adams said. “Some guys went to the Pentagon Air Operations Center. Some went to Air Force Central Command Air Operations Center. When Operation Iraqi Freedom kicked off, the whole unit shut down and forward deployed.”
Throughout the Global War on Terror and even before, the AFCOMAC mission has been and will remain a critical asset to the Air Force.
“We’ve made huge contributions throughout the years,” Chief Adams said.
The Air Force can be proud knowing that Beale’s Ammo Warriors are on the job.