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Hard work, dedication in below zero temperatures

Senior Airman Taylor Lancaster guides a B-52H Stratofortress Jan. 9, 2014, on Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Lancaster’s main duty is to ensure his jet is fixed and prepared to take off before its flight time. Lancaster is a 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft crew chief.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales)

Senior Airman Taylor Lancaster guides a B-52H Stratofortress Jan. 9, 2014, on Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Lancaster’s main duty is to ensure his jet is fixed and prepared to take off before its flight time. Lancaster is a 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft crew chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales)

Senior Airman Taylor Lancaster speaks to a maintenance Airman Jan. 9, 2014, on Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Lancaster ensures his jet is fixed and prepared to take off before its flight time. Lancaster is a 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft crew chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales)

Senior Airman Taylor Lancaster speaks to a maintenance Airman Jan. 9, 2014, on Minot Air Force Base, N.D. Lancaster ensures his jet is fixed and prepared to take off before its flight time. Lancaster is a 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft crew chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales)

Senior Airman Taylor Lancaster guides a truck to a trailer Jan. 9, 2014 on Minot Air Force Base, N.D. The truck was hitched to a trailer that holds all of the tools the Airmen need for the jet to transport to other jets as needed. Lancaster is a 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft crew chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales)

Senior Airman Taylor Lancaster guides a truck to a trailer Jan. 9, 2014 on Minot Air Force Base, N.D. The truck was hitched to a trailer that holds all of the tools the Airmen need for the jet to transport to other jets as needed. Lancaster is a 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft crew chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Sahara L. Fales)

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. (AFNS) -- It's 6:30 a.m., 27 degrees below zero and the sky remains dark. Senior Airman Taylor Lancaster heads to his locker to sort his gear and make sure he has everything ready to begin work in the frigid weather.

On top of multiple layers, he wears thick coveralls and heavy duty boots that allow him to trudge through ice and snow. His face is guarded by a face shield and shatter proof snow goggles.

After being at Minot Air Force Base for more than three years, Lancaster, a 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft crew chief, has worked on his jet enough to know exactly what to do once it lands.

"Every jet is different, especially in the cold," Lancaster said. "I love working on my jet because when it lands I already know what needs to be serviced."

At roll call, the maintenance team gathers together where they are told what jets need repairs. They then head to the tool crib to load the equipment they'll need for the day. Each crew chief is assigned a specific jet they are responsible for maintaining, although they all work together to meet the needs of the mission.

Around 8:30 a.m. the sun begins to rise, allowing the flight line to defrost ever so slightly as the cold weather and ice lingers.

"During the winter, what would normally be a 10 minute job takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour," Lancaster said.

Some of Minot’s harshest winter days can cause things on the jets to break more easily, meaning more work for maintenance Airmen. Because temperatures are known to potentially reach dangerous lows, maintenance members implement the buddy system to ensure safety while getting the mission done.

"Training new Airmen can be a bit of a task when winter time rolls around," he said. "Since it's so cold, we can only spend so long out there before we have to go back inside and warm up."

Although the job can be tough at times, Lancaster tries to remind newer Airmen the mission is important.

"Sometimes it's hard to see the big picture when we're out there working in these kinds of temperatures, but we have to remember what we're doing is meaningful," he added.

Once the weather reaches 45 degrees below zero, maintenance on certain sections of the flight line will temporarily shut down. However, because temperatures read differently across the flight line, the team's duty is to now provide maintenance for a different aircraft.

Currently, Lancaster is working to get flight certified, which will provide him the opportunity to fly with the aircrew and work on the jet as soon as it lands.

"I wanted to do this because it gets me more involved," Lancaster said. "It's a great feeling to be able to get up in the jet that I worked on and take off with the aircrew."

With three years under his belt, Lancaster hasn't made any final decisions on whether he's going to re-enlist, but the future seems to be getting brighter.

"It was hard for me to really look ahead when I first got here," Lancaster said. "Now that I'm comfortable, confident and getting more responsibilities handed down to me, it's making me realize that I know what I'm doing and no matter what I know I can do it."

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