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Maintenance key to combat airpower mission

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Donterrio Erby and Senior Airman Jaid Downing, both assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, perform a 400-hour engine inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 9, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Staff Sgt. Donterrio Erby and Senior Airman Jaid Downing, both assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, perform a 400-hour engine inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 9, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Doug Mayo, 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, pilots an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft during takeoff from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. Before takeoff Staff Sgt. William Harris, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron crew chief, performed a preflight inspection on the aircraft to ensure it was ready to fly the combat sortie.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Capt. Doug Mayo, assigned to the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, pilots an F-16 Fighting Falcon during takeoff from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. Before takeoff Staff Sgt. William Harris, a 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron crew chief, performed a preflight inspection on the aircraft to ensure it was ready to fly the combat sortie. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Santana, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, completes an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft post flight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Senior Airman Joseph Santana, a 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, completes an F-16 Fighting Falcon post-flight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. William Harris, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron crew chief, looks on during an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft preflight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Staff Sgt. William Harris, a 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron crew chief, looks on during an F-16 Fighting Falcon preflight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joseph Santana, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, completes paperwork before an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft post flight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Senior Airman Joseph Santana, a 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, completes paperwork before an F-16 Fighting Falcon post-flight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Doug Mayo, 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, enters an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft before conducting a preflight inspection with Staff Sgt. William Harris, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron crew chief, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Senior Airman Joseph Santana, a 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, completes an F-16 Fighting Falcon post-flight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Guillermo Cruz Rodriguez, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, inspects the intake of an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft during a post flight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Staff Sgt. Guillermo Cruz Rodriguez, a member of the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, inspects the intake of an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a post-flight inspection at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

U.S. Air Force Capt. Doug Mayo, 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft pilot, goes through preflight inspection with Staff Sgt. William Harris, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron crew chief, before a combat sortie at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Capt. Doug Mayo, a 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft pilot, goes through preflight inspection with Staff Sgt. William Harris, a 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron crew chief, before a combat sortie at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 8, 2015. The 455th EAMXS ensure Fighting Falcons on Bagram are prepared for flight and return them to a mission-ready state once they land. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- Maintainers deployed to the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing from their home station at Aviano Air Base, Italy, are always at work maintaining a squadron of combat-ready F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Maintainers are the first and last people pilots see when flying combat sorties; they’re always there to ensure the pilot has a properly functioning aircraft. Without these dedicated Airmen the combat airpower mission at Bagram Airfield would come to a halt.

“The main goal of maintenance is to give quality aircraft to aircrew at all times,” said Master Sgt. Martin Noel, the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent. “The style is the same as home station, just with a little more pep in our steps here due to the increased amount of flying we do and the fact the mission we do here is real compared to training back at our home station.”

The role maintenance Airmen play keeping the aircraft mission ready is critical to the 455th AEW, being able to deliver decisive airpower in support of NATO’s Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

“The mission would stop here without maintainers,” said Airman 1st Class Donal Cantero, a member of the 455th EAMXS. “We wouldn’t have operations and the jets wouldn’t be ready or available to complete the combat mission here.”

Being in a deployed environment brings extra challenges to the maintenance Airmen at Bagram.

“The tempo is significantly higher due to the amount of time we have to turn aircraft and that we’re a 24-hour flying operation here,” Noel said. “At home station we fly for a 12 hour period, then have a 12 hour period to fix the aircraft. Here there is no period to fix. We have to fix as we can and when moments arise.”

Even though being in a deployed environment brings extra challenges, the Airmen of the 455th EAMXS meet each challenge and keep the aircraft in the sky.

“The stress is a little higher in a deployed environment and there is a little more pressure because of the mission we’re doing here,” Noel said. “We train at home station and we also had two months of predeployment training in Las Vegas that prepped the maintainers quite well, and they’re handling the stress perfectly.”

The long hours pay off for the maintainers when they see their hard work take off and return to Bagram.

“I still love it, the hours come with the workload,” Cantero said. “You just push through and see the mission success rate go up. It gives a sense of pride seeing the jets take off in full afterburner, and then seeing them come back without bombs."

Noel added, “I’ve been doing it for 16 years now and still enjoy watching the birds take off, and I still take great pride in knowing the maintenance that my team is doing is quality maintenance.”

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