LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. (AFNS) --
The 314th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron achieved full operational capability, Sept. 1, marking the successful reconstitution of an active-duty maintenance force.
The designation signifies that the squadron has met a rigorous set of criteria, including an approved concept of operations and a high percentage of trained, qualified and certified personnel.
The reconstitution of the unit followed a planned stand-down of active-duty maintainers in the squadron. To address a shortfall of maintainers, Air Force leaders made a critical decision to convert and redistribute maintainers from five non-deployable squadrons.
During that time, Air Force leaders directed that contractor-maintenance personnel be used to fill the manning gap in those five squadrons. The 314th AMXS was identified as one of the squadrons selected to transition to contractor-maintenance personnel for a three-year period beginning in 2017.
For the 314th AMXS, the reconstitution of an active-duty maintenance force meant growing the squadron from the ground up.
The process began last year with Maj. Michael Lasher assuming command of the squadron in August 2019. His arrival marked the first major milestone in the process of standing up the squadron.
“After assuming command, I was part of a small team within the squadron that came together to define our goals and develop lines of effort that would guide us to the accomplishment of reaching full operational capability,” Lasher said. “We developed small goals across a one-year span, and little by little, we started chipping away.”
In the beginning, the squadron’s leadership was focused on establishing what the atmosphere in the unit would be and how they wanted to accomplish this. From there, they were able to dive into the intricacies of growing an active-duty squadron.
“First, we had to successfully receive Airmen and their families in a way that postured them for success,” Lasher said. “That meant establishing a unit culture that fostered achievement. As we began to assign roles and responsibilities, we started rapidly gaining momentum which led us to branch out into specific areas of responsibility.”
As more uniformed personnel arrived to the squadron, they were able to take over section after section until eventually assuming responsibility for maintaining the wing’s C-130J Super Hercules fleet — all while simultaneously training a predominant amount of junior Airmen within the unit.
“We began moving into a more operational phase by assuming responsibility for the Aircraft Maintenance Unit support section, which marked our initial operational capability,” Lasher said. “After that, we steadily began assuming responsibility for aircraft starting with four the first month, then two every month after that. This allowed us to grow and adapt our operational model while also training the large number of three-level technicians we had.”
With a surplus of Airmen needing to complete upgrade training amidst the backdrop of COVID-19, 314th AMXS leadership devised a plan to ensure they accepted responsibility for all aircraft in a timely manner while also mitigating risks associated with the pandemic.
“COVID challenged our ability to progress three-level Airmen through upgrade training, which was the primary threat to our timeline,” Lasher said. “We acknowledged the known risk to the mission if we did not have sufficient number of trained Airmen and implemented mitigation measures to bring three-level Airmen back to work in June to conduct training in preparation to achieve full operational capability by the end of August.”
Watching the reconstitution of active-duty military members was also seen as an educational experience for the more junior Airmen of the squadron — witnessing the myriad of details that have to be taken into account to ensure the mission gets accomplished.
“Most people who join the Air Force join a unit that has already been stood up and everything is laid out for them,” said Senior Airman Isaiah Lemons, 314th AMXS debrief technician. “We got to see all of the intricacies that go along with standing up a unit, which was a terrific experience because we got to see what it truly takes to make a squadron grow and operate.”
Lasher said that as the squadron begins to operate at its full capability with active-duty maintainers, they remain motivated to be at the leading edge of all Air Force maintainers.
“This team is just getting started,” Lasher said. “We still have work to do and members of this unit have the potential, skill and motivation to enhance ‘Herk Nation.’ Moving forward, we seek to advance the way in which we train and educate maintainers and hopefully set a new standard for the Air Force.”