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Supply lines pumping, sorties rolling

OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (AFPN) -- B-52 Stratofortresses keep rolling down the runway at a deployed location, carrying the fight and firepower to the Iraqi regime.

As the operators and maintainers of the 457th Air Expeditionary Group keep the Buffs flying, having parts and equipment at the ready is critical.

"The relationship between maintenance and supply is very important. We work hand in hand to make the mission happen," said Senior Master Sgt. Bill Bivins, production superintendent for the 5th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron.

Unlike the setup at home, this flightline supply element is configured for combat. The section is located right in the maintenance complex to get parts to aircraft without delay, according to flightline supply superintendent Master Sgt. Tracie Reece.

"We're right here with them. It makes it easy," she said. "They bring us the (request), it's processed, and the part is on its way to the aircraft -- all within the span of five minutes or less."

The supply section has more than $81 million of inventory ready for the fleet of Buffs deployed here. They replenish the inventory by reaching back to stateside depots or home station for replacements.

There are some parts or equipment not contained in the 1,795-piece inventory, Reece said. Additional items may be ordered direct from the depot. Requirements for aircraft engaged in combat operations, like B-52s, have top priority.

Reece and her comrades have had to stay on top of the in-country delivery process, setting up a supply computer system and making adjustments to accommodate the increasing number of incoming items.

"Getting the ... process rolling took a bit of ironing out, but now it's running great," Reese said. "Every day we find something we can improve on."

The large number of customers is demanding, according to Senior Airman Nichole Howard, one of two combat supply representatives here. A spirit of teamwork and camaraderie has emerged.

"There are 124 maintainers who can order parts and only two of us," Howard said. "They need the parts to keep the aircraft flying. I now see the bigger picture. I see how we have an essential role."

Instead, the availability of parts is immediate, and as the supply lines keep flowing, so do the sorties.


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