C-130 maintenance unit gets much needed upgrade

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Erik Hofmeyer
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Airmen of the 746th Aircraft Maintenance Unit who generate C-130 Hercules aircraft throughout Southwest Asia now have an upgraded maintenance facility to call home.

The new complex replaces the hodgepodge of old tents, conexes and homemade wooden structures, which combined to form a complex affectionately known as "Shanty Town," a facility that served as a fixture along the coalition ramp since January 2004.

The creaky and uneven wood floors, sub-par lighting and cramped working conditions of the expeditionary facility are now a memory. The semi-permanent complex will have higher ceilings, brighter lights, aluminum flooring and best of all -- the same convenient access to the aircraft.

The new upgraded complex will consist of five "California" tents, currently being built by the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, that will approximately double the current square footage of the former facility.

"We'll have more space to get the parts that we need. It was hard to keep things organized in the cramped working conditions," said Senior Airman Weston Christman, a 746th AMU crew chief. "It will also be nice to have more room for computers and for when aircrews come to visit."

"It provides the best of both worlds," said Senior Master Sgt. David Damits, a 746th AMU flight chief. "A maintenance facility within walking-distance to the coalition ramp creates a connection with the aircraft, and it helps while coordinating maintenance."

Having all of the people, supplies, equipment, and aircraft in one location improves the quick turnaround of aircraft, and maintainers do not have to rely on vehicles for transportation.

The handy site of the facility also alleviates some of the burden for maintainers. It takes approximately 22 hours of maintenance for every one hour of flying time in the 34-year-old aircraft.

The 746th AMU from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, is currently the lone C-130 maintenance presence here, and has been deployed continuously since October 2001.

"The unit is not considered part of an Air Expeditionary Force, but considered an 'enabler,'" said Maj. Donald Vandenbussche, the 746th AMU commander.

"The two maintenance units back at Dyess have been swapping back and forth -- 120 days on, 120 days off," he said. "We have 10 or 12 folks in our squadron who have more than 600 deployed days since they've been with our unit."

The 746th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron has supported relief missions to Kenya, inter-theater airlift of passengers and cargo, medical evacuations, and other tactical missions.

"Our unit is in constant deployment to this base, so there is pride of ownership for these facilities. It's our home away from home, and that's why we try to improve things," the major said.

"I'm sure that once the new facility is completed, the next rotation will come in and see how they can make it better," said Major Vandenbussche. "'Shanty Town' originally started with only three smaller Alaska tents."

Each rotation added something new. Over time it morphed into something different. Conexes were attached for flight offices, wooden structures were built for more room and a deck was built behind the makeshift complex.

"Each rotation made it a little better, and that's the kind of the goal we come in with," said Major Vandenbussche. "We've kind of claimed this part of the coalition ramp as our own."

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