ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. – In May of 2010, Airmen of all ranks were sitting on a plane, some anticipating what life would be like during their deployment to Afghanistan. Others, like then-Airman 1st Class Anthony Anderson, were thinking about how their job would affect the mission and those around them.
“I started thinking, ‘Okay, now [bomb building] really counts’…and on top of building I’m going to have people shooting at me,’” Anderson said, recalling the list of obstacles that piled up in his mind as he became more anxious.
Now a staff sergeant assigned to the 28th Munitions Squadron, Anderson works as a conventional maintenance crew chief and munitions inspector for Ellsworth AFB.
“Anderson is definitely a go-to guy,” said Staff Sgt. Tim Weaver, the noncommissioned officer in charge of conventional maintenance production assigned to the 28th MUNS. “Whenever anyone has a question on munitions, he knows the answer and is really knowledgeable on things.”
Anderson, who was born and raised in Howard Air Force Base, Panama, was inspired by his father who served for 12 years and grandfather who served during the Korean War, both in the Air Force. He decided to follow suit and join the Air Force in September 2008.
“Even when my dad got out he continued to work for the Air Force,” Anderson said. “So it never left our family.”
Anderson said when he joined in as open mechanic, he wasn’t sure what to expect upon receiving his munitions technician job – now he knows.
“There is no doubt that I love the job,” Anderson said. “I definitely say it’s one of the top most important jobs in the Air Force. What [munitions technician crewmembers] do for air power, it comes out of the teams at every base that has fighters and bombers, because what’s an aircraft without its bombs?”
The career of this conventional maintenance Airman was just starting during that plane ride, and soon Anderson realized the changes it would bring to his life.
“When we first started building, we began to physically hear our bombs going off in the city near us,” Anderson said about his deployment in Afghanistan. “During the night, you could see the flashes over the hill from our bombs going off. It was to the point we would see a flash and load up another bomb, because we knew [the MQ-9 Reapers, MQ-1 Predators and A-10 Warthogs] just expended one. It was constant go, go, go.”
Anderson described his first deployment as an adrenaline rush because Taliban rockets were aiming at their munition building shop. It is also where he learned his first dud had resulted in three fellow Airmen killed in action, a failed explosive that changed his outlook on his job.
“I started thinking about the big picture when informed of our dud,” Anderson said. “I thought about if those [military members] were married or did they have kids, and if that bomb had gone off correctly, they could have gone home to go see their kids. That’s three families that don’t get their father back.”
Although he felt he was responsible, Anderson said he could not let that get in his way.
“I had to get over it to continue the mission,” Anderson said. “You can’t let those situations continue to be a gray cloud over you because you won’t be able to get your job done.”
Not everything is doom and gloom to the conventional maintenance crew chief.
“Always know there’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Anderson said. “If things seem bleak at the moment, no matter how much stress you’re under you can keep pushing through. You would be amazed at how much you can do yourself as long as you believe in yourself.”
There are many reasons Airmen serve, and for Anderson, the love of his country is one of them.
“I serve because I love the freedom this country gives me and the rest of the U.S. citizens and it is definitely something worth fighting for,” Anderson said. “I’ll gladly be that one percent that gets to serve and prove that this is worth fighting for, every day and every hour.”