No laughing matter – 5th EAMS ‘Jokers’ play critical role in OIR

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
With more than 1,000 successful missions in the last six months, the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, known as “the Jokers,” supports Operation Inherent Resolve’s busiest port in the area of responsibility at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.

As a tenant unit under the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, the 5th EAMS is responsible for the aerial port at that location. “The Jokers” maintain staged C-17 Globemaster III aircraft in addition to providing support for transient aircraft flying in and out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Southwest Asia.

Beyond their mission at the 386th AEW, they perform maintenance operations on air frames at forward deployed locations.

“Without maintainers, these aircraft would eventually just sit on the runway,” said Senior Airman Eric Pashnick, 5th EAMS crew chief, deployed from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. “It is humbling to know that with our support, we are able to accomplish the mission. However, at the same time, it keeps you focused and ensures you pay attention to even the littlest detail – because one mistake can be catastrophic.”

The attention to detail Pashnick mentioned is critical, as aircraft here are often subject to foreign object damage. According to Pashnick, it is common for aircraft to arrive there with rocks, sand, animals, shrapnel or combat damage. “The Jokers” then have to repair or replace parts affected by the FOD, in addition to performing routine maintenance procedures.

“We are there working the moment the aircraft comes to a full-stop,” said Senior Airman Clayton Cahoon, 5th EAMS crew chief, deployed from Travis Air Force Base, California. “Time is of the essence, and the longer an aircraft is parked on our runway, the less it is in the air completing its mission. It’s our job to ensure it doesn’t sit on the runway for long.”

Cahoon said when an aircraft arrives, they do a full inspection on it – from the engines all the way down to the fluids. More recently, Cahoon and his fellow Airmen repaired engines on one C-17 by removing and replacing a series of rotor blades.

Although his deployment is ending soon, Cahoon said his time there has been rewarding, and will remember it fondly. He attributes his positive attitude to his fellow Airmen, the interaction and involvement from their leadership and the work they completed.

“What makes the Airmen of the 5th EAMS the best is their passion for the mission, team work and pride in what they accomplish,” said Lt. Col. Clinton Varty, 5th EAMS commander.

Varty said he could rave about the Airmen and list their accomplishments, but said the achievements are just a result of the hard work “the Jokers” do every day.

“Beyond the Airmen of the 5th EAMS, the reason we are successful is due to amazing support we receive from the 386th AEW and the 387th Air Expeditionary Group,” Varty said. “This is a great place to make the mission happen – and we all have a part in that.”