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Maintainers keep C-5 Galaxy fit for duty

OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- The mission almost sounds simple. Put a crew on the plane, fly it into the area of operations, pick up the cargo and head home.

Sending the C-5 Galaxy into the international airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan, not only takes the skilled precision of aircrews, it also takes the airmen behind the scenes to make sure the aircraft is ready and safe to fly into harm's way.

Staged with the aircrews are the men and women of the 730th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron. Composed mostly of people from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., the team of mobility warriors attributes the mission's success to one simple factor -- teamwork.

"The reason we've been so successful is because everyone is pitching in to make it happen," said Senior Master Sgt. Jeff Hammett, the production superintendent, who is deployed from the 349th Aircraft Generation Squadron at Travis AFB. "We have specialists helping crew chiefs, and fuels guys helping hydraulics troops. Everyone knows the importance of this mission, and (is) doing whatever it takes to get the job done."

Getting the job done means having the C-5 ready every day when the crews arrive at the jet. The maintenance team has been faced with some obstacles, but ingenuity and hard work have paid off.

"What we've been able to do here is remarkable," said Maj. David Coley, commander of the 60th Aircraft Generation Squadron, who is heading up the maintenance effort for the 730th EAMS.

Coley said that when the mission was assigned to the C-5, planning for success started straight away.

"We knew from the onset that even the slightest setback would be unacceptable," he said. "We set ourselves up for success by hand-picking only the best of the best maintainers. We came in here with one mobility bin of supplies, and we've made it happen. We've made a very small footprint, but a really big impact."

"This is so much different (compared to) the missions we perform at home," said Senior Airman Joe Williams, a crew chief deployed here from the 60th AGS at Travis. "When we launch out missions at Travis, the plane leaves empty, is gone for weeks and returns empty. Here, we send an empty plane down range, and it returns full of cargo that's been (used to) defending freedom in Afghanistan. We've put in a lot of sweat equity, and it's awesome to see the fruit of our efforts."

Although teamwork has been key to this mission, one noncommissioned officer says it is the right of passage that makes it rewarding.

"It's [the mission] a success because we made sure the younger troops were informed every step of the way," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Bridgeforth, a crew chief from the 60th AGS who is deployed here. "We briefed them from the beginning on how important this mission is to the Air Force, especially the C-5 community. The seasoned veterans have been able to pass along a wealth of information to the younger guys, and now they're the ones making it happen. They know it's not just the first sortie that was important, it's every sortie, every time."

Although the mission has been very demanding on maintenance, leadership is extremely pleased with how things have turned out, and how the troops are really stepping up to the plate.

"Right now we're having to force people to take time off," said Capt. Aaron Sasson, a maintenance officer from the 60th Logistics Group. "They want to be here to launch and recover every sortie. These guys are really making it happen, and it's really enjoyable to be part of something like this."

Right now the numbers are proof that the C-5 can get the mission done. The aircraft is 22 for 22 for missions heading into Kandahar. Supervisors know that while it is the machine that makes it possible, without the airmen in the trenches it just would not happen. (Courtesy of Air Mobility Command News Service)

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