Phase dock keeps F-16s in top shape for Operation Inherent Resolve
By Tech. Sgt. Clinton Atkins, 407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
/ Published February 21, 2019
SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNS) -- With each strike, coalition partners move a step closer to the defeat of ISIS’ so-called physical caliphate. The 55th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron’s relentless pursuit supporting Operation Inherent Resolve comes with an insatiable maintenance need for the F-16C Fighting Falcons at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group.
While myriad maintenance sections within the 55th EFS are responsible for specific parts of the jets, everything comes together at the phase dock, where six crew chiefs at any time, 24-hours per day, are responsible for the repair and serviceability of every F-16 that comes through their shop.
“Phase is vital to the mission because it allows us more time to dig deep into the jet, looking deeper into the integrity of the aircraft, which takes some stress off the flightline,” said Staff Sgt. Kenny Manzer, 55th EFS phase floor chief.
Manzer said each F-16 can only perform for so long before needing scheduled downtime to perform routine maintenance and inspections. The service intervals for the F-16s are measured in hours –and each takes a phase crew approximately 700 man hours to complete.
“The jets are like people in a way, they still need a break now and then and need to be refreshed,” he said.
To understand the inspection intervals for a jet, think about a privately owned vehicle’s mileage, he said. As the vehicle gets higher in mileage, each factory recommended service interval requires a higher degree of maintenance. No panel is left untouched.
“From the nut plates to the bulkheads, anything we find, we fix it,” Manzer said.
That level of detail requires the phase professionals to crawl into every nook and cranny of the jet, leaving their face, fingers and feet covered in grease. The dedication to their craft is visible. The same goes with the way they measure success.
“In our job, we measure success in our quality-assurance inspection passes and getting the jet out in a timely manner or even ahead of schedule to return to the fight,” he said. “We know we did our job right when we provide safe, reliable combat aircraft to the unit that can come out and go straight to the fight without a problem.”
The more thorough, deliberate pace of the phase dock allows for an ideal learning environment, instilling success at the lowest level.
Airman 1st Class Wyatt Struppler, 55th EFS inspection team member, is on his first deployment and praises the amount of experience he is receiving in an expeditionary location.
“It’s very interesting to learn about every component of the jet,” he said. “It doesn’t feel as rushed out here. We can take the necessary time to do the job right. I am learning a lot more about the job while deployed. We have less people here than we have at home station so I feel a greater sense of responsibility and that’s helped me grow as a crew chief.”
In the maintenance world, Airmen are near the tip of the spear and have immediate impact on the mission, according to Manzer. Having a direct effect on the airpower that supports the fight against ISIS and its enduring defeat is in itself a reward.
“As you watch the pilot taxi out and take off, whether day or night, you know every single Airman in your shop played a role in making that mission happen,” said Manzer. “It's a great feeling of accomplishment knowing what goes into every mission.”