731 MUNS: Known to few, vital to many

Lt. Col. Terry Wanner Jr.

(Courtesy photo)

CAMP DARBY, Italy -- As our nation celebrated Independence Day on July 4th this year, I landed at Pisa International Airport bound for U.S. Army Garrison, Darby Military Community [Camp Darby], Livorno Italy, ready to take command of the 731st Munitions Squadron, an Air Force tenant unit located just minutes from the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Having visited the garrison in 2006 I knew the squadron and its mission. At that time it was a Geographically Separated Unit under the 38th Combat Support Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. Today, the 731st MUNS is a part of the 31st Maintenance Group, which is assigned to the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

However, many people in our service know little of our existence and the vital role we play in European operations. We are a small group of professionals committed to serve the mission.

As our primary mission, squadron members are ready at a moment’s notice to receive and globally distribute munitions via three critical modes: sea, rail, and ground. Our 159 Airmen in 11 different Air Force career fields and 14 host nation Italians are responsible for maintaining the largest United States Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa conventional munitions stockpile. This makes us Europe’s premier explosives storage hub for pre-positioned war reserve materiel.

Here’s how we do it.

Recently our Airmen executed the mission partnering with the Army, Italian Customs, and Carabinieri to organize the handling and movement of 52 sea containers filled with more than 825,000 munition items. Our location offers direct access to the deepest seawater port south of the Alps, which allows our team to receive and load mass quantities of munitions. These types of vessel operations are critical to serving our customers and allows us to maintain proficiency in theater munitions resupply.

To conduct rail operations we own and maintain a locomotive. To bolster future intra-theater munitions resupply capability, we are preparing to execute a European Reassurance Initiative that will enable us to expand the rail line that allows direct in and out munitions movements.

We also ship and receive munitions via ground. This capability was showcased during the United Nation’s convention on cluster munitions disarmament objective. We partnered with Italy and disposed of 1,302 cluster bombs, a task that required 41 separate shipments.

Most importantly, the 731st MUNS accomplishes the mission daily due to the professionalism and commitment of our Airmen and civilians!
We are a small unit with a 61 year lineage at Camp Darby, known to few, but we are vital to the success of many as we execute our diverse and critically important mission. Our team has been recognized by the Secretary of Defense and was awarded USAFE-AFA’s 2016 Maintenance Effectiveness Award. I’m extremely proud of the men and women that comprise the 731st MUNS and their families that support them! I’m equally proud to have been given the opportunity to serve as their Squadron Commander.