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Transient-alert team keeps flightline running

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Staff Sgt. Robert Rawlings, a heavy aircraft crew chief with the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing's transient alert team, shuts down an external power unit for a C-130 Hercules heading to Iraq. The transient alert team ensures transient aircraft are properly parked, provides power to aircraft, assists in moving cargo pallets and troubleshoots and fixes maintenance problems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM -- Staff Sgt. Robert Rawlings, a heavy aircraft crew chief with the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing's transient alert team, shuts down an external power unit for a C-130 Hercules heading to Iraq. The transient alert team ensures transient aircraft are properly parked, provides power to aircraft, assists in moving cargo pallets and troubleshoots and fixes maintenance problems. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM – Staff Sgt. Jassen Jack, directs a Marine CH-53 helicopter carrying Marines to a parking spot by a C-130. The 386th Transient Alert team played a key role in taking care of the aircraft transporting nearly 850 Marines moving forward to support operations in Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multinational coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM – Staff Sgt. Jassen Jack, directs a Marine CH-53 helicopter carrying Marines to a parking spot by a C-130. The 386th Transient Alert team played a key role in taking care of the aircraft transporting nearly 850 Marines moving forward to support operations in Iraq. Operation Iraqi Freedom is the multinational coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and end the regime of Saddam Hussein. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- The flightline is a busy place and no one knows that better than the people who keep it all running smoothly at one forward-deployed location.

The 386th Air Expeditionary Wing's transient alert team has aircraft crew chiefs who ensure all the transient aircraft -- aircraft that do not belong to the wing here -- have a place to park while ensuring the needs of the aircraft and crew are met.

"We started out as a three-man team of heavy-aircraft crew chiefs before the war -- we worked when aircraft came in," said Tech. Sgt. Clark Ritter, superintendent of the TA team. "Now, after the buildup and current situation, we take care of 15 to 20 aircraft a day working 12-hour shifts."

The team took on two more members, fighter-aircraft crew chiefs to handle fighter aircraft that had to land for repairs and sandstorms.

"The first time the fighters came in we were just learning how to handle the aircraft here, but when the second group of fighters diverted due to sandstorms we had it much smoother," said Ritter. "Having worked with the first group of fighters we learned a lot and were able to get the aircraft parked and taken care of much more efficiently."

With the flightline busy supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, several members of TA have learned new things.

"This is my third rotation, but this is the busiest base I have worked," said Staff Sgt. Robert Rawlings, a crew chief deployed from McChord Air Force Base, Wash. "Luckily, the different duty stations I have gone to have allowed me to earn (experience) on four different airframes, so TA fits me well. I enjoy the challenges associated with the job."

"I am an F-15 (Eagle) crew chief deployed here to support fighters that might divert here," said Senior Airman Jason Fogle. "However, I have mainly been working on all types of heavy aircraft. TA is a first for me but it had allowed me to see how other aircraft work."

Although the aircraft workload has increased, the TA team has adjusted well to unexpected changes.

"This deployment has given me the chance to work on more aircraft than I normally would," said Staff Sgt. Rob Gray, another crew chief from McChord. "When we had Marines transferring from helicopters to C-130s (Hercules) we had to juggle ramp space but we were able to do it and get the Marines where they were needed."

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