Airman 1st Class Eric Weeks and Staff Sgt. Taylor Stivers reassemble a panel on a U-2 in Southwest Asia on May 17, 2012. The U-2 provides high-altitude, all-weather surveillance and reconnaissance, day or night, in direct support of U.S. and allied forces. Weeks and Taylor are from deployed Beale Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott MacKay)
Staff Sgt. Adam Sotak performs engine maintenance on a KC-10 Extender in Southwest Asia on May 17, 2012. The KC-10 is an advanced tanker and cargo aircraft designed to provide increased global mobility for U.S. armed forces. Sotak is deployed from Travis Air Force Base, Calif. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Scott MacKay)
by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
5/18/2012 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- For aircraft maintainers deployed to the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, the month of April was one for the record books.
Air Force leaders track metrics in eight categories each month that reflect the overall readiness of flying units. It's an accomplishment for an aircraft maintenance unit to surpass the standard in all eight areas; when four units do it in the same month, it's "unprecedented."
During the month of April, the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft maintenance units for the E-3 Sentry, U-2, E-Q4 Global Hawk and KC-10 Extender reported "green" across the board.
"In a typical month, an AMU expects to be coded 'green' in four to six metrics based on supply issues, workload and a variety of other factors," explained Capt. Josh Reno, the operations officer for the 380th EAMS. "It's unprecedented that four AMUs pulled this off, especially while deployed.
"Having as many jets available as we did means we were able to offer more aerial options for senior leaders and more assets for warfighters," added Reno, who is deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah. "When we were tasked with a mission, we were able to say, 'Yes, we can support that.'"
According to Reno, the accomplishment is due in large part to increased cooperation on three fronts:
- The supply system shipping parts and equipment
- Aircrew providing detailed debriefings after each flight
- Maintainers working swiftly and fixing things right the first time
"When I first saw the numbers, I wondered if we just had a light month, but the four weapon systems flew about 350 missions," said Col. Stacey Hawkins, the 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Group commander. "Having four AMUs succeed like that wasn't necessarily a specific goal we were set on achieving, because I'd rather have maintainers focusing on fixing jets and delivering safe and ready aircraft than meeting quotas. But when you work as hard as everyone has, the numbers take care of themselves."
April was the first month in five years the KC-10 and E-3 maintainers reported the high marks. For the E-3s, it was the only time they'd even been "eight out of eight" since they started deploying to the 380th AEW in 2007, said 1st Lt. Ashley Hewko, the Sentry AMU officer in charge.
"The Sentry is the 911 in the sky for people on the ground, so by keeping more planes and their systems up and running, we were able to more effectively help people," explained Hewko, who is deployed from Tinker AFB, Okla. "If fighters needed fuel or warfighters needed close air support, E-3s were in place to coordinate that."
For the U-2 and Global Hawk maintainers, keeping their aircraft operational means more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data is available.
"We all carry cards with our 'Five Ts' to help us stay focused on the job," said Senior Airman Terrell Claggett, who is deployed from Beale AFB, Calif. "They say 'training, technical orders, tools, time and tell.' If we don't have the training, TOs, tools or time, we tell someone. It's the foundation of maintenance for us."
Extender maintenance crews insisted their success comes from the instant teamwork and camaraderie between the Airmen from the Air Force's two KC-10 bases: Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and Travis AFB, Calif.
"When I got here, I felt welcome right away and that's the key for us," said Airman 1st Class Anthony Haas, who is deployed from Travis AFB. "We're all comfortable working together, which is important because we have to keep turning jets and getting tankers in the air. Everyone feels like they're a part of the team and can contribute no matter what your rank is."
Airmen of the 380th EMXG will remember April as the benchmark for when logistics, maintenance, aircrew and support elements were "firing on all cylinders to make the mission happen," Hawkins said.
"There was great synergy by a lot of organizations," the colonel said. "It's really the story of Airmen at every level taking ownership of their part of the mission. I couldn't be prouder of what they've done."