MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Recently, the 35th Maintenance Group (MXG) Munitions Flight, or ammo flight, was able to clear a two-year backlog of expiring or unserviceable assets through a process called retrograde in three months at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
Retrograde happens twice a year and entails the munitions flight sending serviceable excess or unserviceable assets back to the U.S. This allows space to be reallocated for war-ready assets such as bullets, grenades, and rocket launchers.
“As munitions expire or become an excess, they accumulate and begin to take up the physical and explosive weight capacity here at Misawa,” said Master Sgt. Douglas Gillen, 35th MXG Munitions Flight munitions accountable systems officer. “With no way to dispose of many of these munitions in Japan, both the unserviceable and excess munitions are shipped back to the states in shipping containers which are transported out through southern Japan.”
With last year’s retrograde cancellation, the ammo flight had extra assets to pack and fill the two year backlog. While stateside bases distribute these assets to their destined locations on a quarterly basis by truck, overseas assets are required to be shipped once or twice a year. All overseas U.S. bases, ranging from Korea to Alaska, ship from one specific location.
This year retrograde took three months, with two months being used for planning and paperwork. To physically start packing the assets, the ammo flight had to figure out the amount that needed to be shipped out, how they were going to pack it all in and coordinate with other units for a smooth transition.
The ammo flight consists of nine sections called elements, with the storage element in charge of the retrograde. Along with retrograde, this element is responsible for supplying munitions and assets to the production shops and up keep the stockpile area.
The last month of the retrograde consisted of grouping the assets together on a pallet and securing them in a metal band. Afterwards, the inspection element ensured everything was secured and ready to be transported.
Then, they blocked and braced the pallets within the shipping container, making sure it would not be dislocated during transportation. During the entire process, they were able to fit and pack nine 20-foot maritime shipping containers valued at $4.8 million.
“In short, if we didn't ship out the unserviceable and excess munitions, we would run out of space for munitions needed,” said Gillen. “Not only for the 35th Fighter Wing wild weasel mission, but also other agencies such as Explosives Ordnance Disposal, Security Forces Squadron, Office of Special Investigations, Egress and Army Joint Tactical Ground Stations.”
Despite the struggles and the time constraint, the ammo flight Airmen persevered making sure all unserviceable assets were transported to correct facilities. This allows Misawa the opportunity to receive up-to-date assets which is crucial in the mission to defend Japan and deter adversaries in the Indo-Pacific region.