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Holloman surges RPA operations

49th Aircraft Maintenance squadron Airmen hoist an engine cover panel onto an MQ-9 at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., May 4, 2017. Holloman AFB conducted surge operations from May 1 to May 5, ramping up operations to accurately measure the full capability of its Airmen and equipment.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chase Cannon)

Airmen from the 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron hoist an engine cover panel onto an MQ-9 Reaper at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., May 4, 2017. Holloman AFB conducted surge operations from May 1-5, ramping up operations to accurately measure the full capability of its Airmen and equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Chase Cannon)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- The 49th Wing’s remotely piloted aircraft squadrons at Holloman Air Force Base completed a five-day surge May 5, 2017, to measure the full capabilities of the Airmen and civilians involved in the RPA mission.

The 6th, 9th and 29th Attack Squadrons completed 45 MQ-9 Reaper sorties and totaled more than 465 flight hours during the week, allowing RPA student pilots, sensor operators, and maintainers to discover and record limitations.

“While we are conducting surge operations you can see a flurry of activity that is happening across the base, and that is when we realize how integral of a team we are,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Monroe, the 9th Attack Squadron commander. “There are a number of things happening on the flight line and in the flying squadrons; you can even see the broader impact around Holloman with our various mission support elements who are enabling pilots, sensor operators and maintainers to launch all of these aircraft.”

Surge week also provides commanders with the opportunity to exercise the system to accurately measure the proficiency, accuracy and competency of the squadrons.

“We continue to see that what we do here is not simple,” Monroe said. “It is not something you can do by yourself, it takes a very well built and well trained team to accomplish the mission.”

Personnel supporting surge operations included air traffic controllers, aircraft maintainers, schedulers, flight safety, fuels and munitions specialists, and range control operators who worked long hours to keep pace with the RPA mission. Sometimes shifts are utilized to keep the aircraft in working order.

"A typical duty day on swing shift is waiting for the MQ-9 to land so that we can get control of the Ground Control System and aircraft, that's when the real hard work starts, getting your fingers dirty, that kind of stuff goes on,” said Airman 1st Class Bryton Pollock, a 49th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron communications systems technician. “Any kind of problems the plane has, we get told about it. We go out and figure out how to fix it. We get the parts and the tools we need and we put in the man hours to fix whatever problem it has."

Aircraft maintenance was critical during the surge in operations, when both aircraft and simulators were utilized to the maximum extent possible for student training.

“Our simulators are operating on the order of 18 hours a day or more,” Monroe said. “Right now we are launching aircraft that will stay airborne for 10, 11 or 12 hours, and it takes a very fine-tuned sequence and schedule in order to execute launching those operations.”

A key component to the Holloman team are instructor pilots who help students to develop skills that will prepare them for future roles of providing combatant commanders with crucial situational awareness and strike capabilities.

“You develop a much deeper appreciation for how hard everyone is working on the flight line every single day,” Monroe said. “From maintenance personnel, the aviators that are operating the aircraft and all of our various mission support partners that help us to accomplish our mission. You develop an appreciation for just how great of a team we are for producing students and airpower capabilities here.”

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