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Investment in national security

Orlando Dean, defense contractor assembly mechanic, looks over a portion of an F-15E Strike Eagle at a defense contractor's factory in St. Louis, Mo, Aug. 3, 2017. During the visit, military members were given the opportunity to meet those who create the products they use on a daily basis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Orlando Dean, defense contractor assembly mechanic, looks over a portion of an F-15E Strike Eagle at a defense contractor's factory in St. Louis, Mo, Aug. 3, 2017. During the visit, military members were given the opportunity to meet those who create the products they use on a daily basis. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Defense contractors give a tour to airmen from the 366th Fighter Wing of Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, during their visit to the factory Aug. 3, 2017, in St. Louis, Mo. Gunfighters toured the F-15E Strike Eagle production line and the weapons factory during their visit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Defense contractors give a tour to airmen from the 366th Fighter Wing of Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, during their visit to the factory Aug. 3, 2017, in St. Louis, Mo. Gunfighters toured the F-15E Strike Eagle production line and the weapons factory during their visit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, tour a defense contractor's factory during a visit to St. Louis, Mo, Aug. 3, 2017. The tour showed the production of an F-15E Strike Eagle from start to finish. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, tour a defense contractor's factory during a visit to St. Louis, Mo, Aug. 3, 2017. The tour showed the production of an F-15E Strike Eagle from start to finish. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Senior Master Sgt. Travis Patterson, 389th Aircraft Mantenance Unit lead production superintendent, examines the underside of an unfinished F-15E Strike Eagle on the production floor of a defense contractor's factory in St. Louis, Mo, Aug. 3, 2017. The visit was an opportunity for Air Force members to see the beginning stages of products they deploy during the war on terrorism. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Senior Master Sgt. Travis Patterson, 389th Aircraft Mantenance Unit lead production superintendent, examines the underside of an unfinished F-15E Strike Eagle on the production floor of a defense contractor's factory in St. Louis, Mo, Aug. 3, 2017. The visit was an opportunity for Air Force members to see the beginning stages of products they deploy during the war on terrorism. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Defense contractor employees work on a portion of an F-15E Strike Eagle in a factory in St. Louis, Mo, Aug. 3, 2017. Workers were given the opportunity to meet with service members whom they produce products for. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Defense contractor employees work on a portion of an F-15E Strike Eagle in a factory in St. Louis, Mo, Aug. 3, 2017. Workers were given the opportunity to meet with service members whom they produce products for. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Keith Anderson, defense contractor munitions mechanic, installs a wiring harness to a munition Aug. 3, 2017, in St. Louis, Mo. While touring the munitions facility, Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, were able to see the munitions develop throughout the stages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Keith Anderson, defense contractor munitions mechanic, installs a wiring harness to a munition Aug. 3, 2017, in St. Louis, Mo. While touring the munitions facility, Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, were able to see the munitions develop throughout the stages. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, tour the weapons factory of a defense contractor in St. Louis, Mo., Aug. 3, 2017. Airmen toured both the the F-15 Strike Eagle factory and the weapons factory during their visit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, tour the weapons factory of a defense contractor in St. Louis, Mo., Aug. 3, 2017. Airmen toured both the the F-15 Strike Eagle factory and the weapons factory during their visit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Col. Jefferson O'Donnell, 366th Fighter Wing commander, addresses defense contractor employees during a factory tour, Aug. 3, 2017, in St. Louis, Mo. O'Donnell was able to thank the emplyees for all of their hard work in supporting national defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Col. Jefferson O'Donnell, 366th Fighter Wing commander, addresses defense contractor employees during a factory tour, Aug. 3, 2017, in St. Louis, Mo. O'Donnell was able to thank the emplyees for all of their hard work in supporting national defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Col. Jefferson O'Donnell, 366th Fighter Wing commander, shakes hands with employees during a visit to a defense contractors factory, Aug. 3, 2017, in St. Louis, Mo. Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, were given the chance to talk with employees and thank them for their hard work and contribution to national defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

Col. Jefferson O'Donnell, 366th Fighter Wing commander, shakes hands with employees during a visit to a defense contractors factory, Aug. 3, 2017, in St. Louis, Mo. Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, were given the chance to talk with employees and thank them for their hard work and contribution to national defense. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jeremy L. Mosier)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- While some may think the gap between the civilian and military sectors in national security has grown over the years, an inside look at airmen and defense factory collaboration proves how valuable they are to one another.

Last week a team of aircrew and maintainers had an opportunity to discuss with those in the civilian sector who directly contribute to the defense of the nation, when they toured defense contractor factories in St. Louis, Missouri.

“Just seeing the F-15 line and how it literally starts with a sheet of metal,” said Capt. Todd Johnston, an Air Force weapons systems officer. “There are thousands of small details that go into it, I had no idea the amount of time that goes into every little thing to make sure we are safely operating.”

During the tour, U.S. Air Force members visited the factories that build two of the main contributors to the most recent F-15E deployment successes, the F-15E Strike Eagle and munitions factories.

Col. Jefferson O’Donnell, 366th Fighter Wing commander, explained that during one of his fighter squadron’s last deployments, aircrews dropped an average of one munition an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, totaling 5,018 munitions dropped over a six-month period at a 99 percent success rate.

With numbers like this being produced it has placed a demand on larger quantities of munitions needed.

“The customers are in need of more product and we are here to provide it for them,” said Shawn Cline, defense contractor munitions mechanic.

The reoccurring F-15E successes can be directly attributed to the men and women working at defense contractors’ factories.

“It’s pretty awesome being able to talk to everybody and meet them and hear the stories,” said Travis Bauer, defense contractor munitions mechanic. “It makes you feel pretty good about yourself when they come in here and explain what they have done with the weapons you have built.”

Kline explained, with the increased demand in weapons, they have recently hired more employees and plan to continue to grow while meeting all warfighter standards and safety requirements and provide it to them in a timely manner.

In the last two years the defense contractor has increased everyday production from 40 units a day to 155 units. From laser-guided joint direct attack munitions to small-diameter bomb munition technology, the development of defense weapons over the past few years has been significant.

Charlie Davis, small-diameter bomb program manager, explained that the additional collaboration between the warfighter and the defense contractor has allowed them to enhance and expand the capability of their weapons system. The SDB miniature munition technology is now even more focused on minimizing collateral damage and the addition of wings to products like JDAM provide an enhanced range capability.

Early in the life of JDAM, identified by warfighters, there was a demand to be able to go at targets of opportunity, either moving or stationary. Defense contractors invested millions of dollars to increase its effectiveness by creating laser-guided capabilities — now the weapon of choice by the warfighter, Davis explained.

Working together, the development of security for the nation is made possible by both men and women in and out of uniform.

"America's defense industry is an integral member of our national defense team, every member of a winning team deserves the opportunity to feel proud of who we are and what we do,” O’Donnell said. “Our visit allowed airmen at the tip of the spear to shake hands with those Americans who craft the spear."

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