HomeNewsArticle Display

RPA maintainers accomplish mission despite low retention

The constant and insatiable demand for remotely piloted aircraft airpower has placed stressors on nearly every career field within the enterprise. For the RPA maintenance career fields, these stressors are causing the retention rates to plummet causing rates lower than that of any other aircraft in Air Combat Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen)

The constant and insatiable demand for remotely piloted aircraft airpower has placed stressors on nearly every career field within the enterprise. For the RPA maintenance career fields, these stressors are causing the retention rates to plummet causing rates lower than that of any other aircraft in Air Combat Command. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen)

CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. (AFNS) -- The constant and insatiable demand for remotely piloted aircraft airpower places stressors on nearly every career field within the RPA enterprise. For some Airmen of the 432nd Maintenance Group, the fast-paced deployment rotation, constant shift work, time away from family, limited assignment options and struggle of daily process changes, are more than enough to make some choose not to re-enlist.

"We're definitely seeing some issues with retention here in RPA maintenance as well as the rest of the Air Force," said Chief Master Sgt. John Burks, the 432nd MXG chief enlisted manager. "There are a lot of job opportunities where the Airmen can continue to do great work in the RPA enterprise but through DOD contractors. At the end of the day, these Airmen are going to choose what's best for them and their families."

The 432nd MXG is comprised of nearly 20 different Air Force specialty codes and is responsible for maintaining the MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper.

In a recent study, Air Combat Command discovered the MQ-1 and MQ-9 maintenance retention rates were lower than any fighter aircraft with approximately 32 percent of first-time enlistees and 14 percent of second-term enlistees re-enlisting. These rates are roughly 15 percent lower for first-term and 36 percent lower for second-term enlistees versus the rates of the next aircraft platform with the lowest retention rates.

"Most of the Airmen leaving the military are senior airmen and staff sergeants at the end of their first enlistments and they can take their military training and apply it relatively quickly in a contracting job," said Chief Master Sgt. Stacy Dent, the 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron chief enlisted manager.

Some Airmen within the 432nd MXG said it's hard to want to stay in the military when they could take their degree to a civilian company and have a more stable schedule and workload, as well as more pay. Others say it's because they have only three assignment locations available within the RPA career field. Each location is in a desert environment, with low manning, calling for 12-hour duty days with two-hour transit to and from work, little time at home between deployments, and lack of incentives to stay in despite the need for their career field.

The loss of the young Airmen and NCOs takes a toll on the rest of the force and creates an environment where it's challenging to keep a high level experience within the career field.

"A lot of skills and techniques take time to acquire," Hill said. "It takes doing the job over and over, and if we don't have the people doing that and you lose that expertise, mistakes will happen eventually, and we don't ever want to get to that point."

The struggles aren't going unnoticed. Leadership from the Air Force, wing, group, squadron and units are taking action.

"There is a lot that the Air Force, wing and squadron leadership is doing," Burks said. "First the commander of Air Combat Command implemented the Cultural Process Improvement Program which is an initiative to assemble subject matter experts across the Air Force for base visits and interviews so we can take actionable ways to improve the RPA enterprise."

Burks went on to say the wing leadership is also continuing to argue for selective re-enlistment bonuses for RPA maintenance to help with retention.

The leadership also tries to make sure the Airmen know how they are making an impact in the world, no matter how monotonous or mundane a task may seem.

"These Airmen are saving lives every single day and enabling others to save lives," Hill said. "The maintainer who thinks they're just fixing a maintenance stand is actually fixing the stand so that a crew chief can get the plane to fly, so the aircrew can train and gain experience flying, so they can keep someone on the ground safe downrange and be able to return home to their families."

Not only are the 432nd MXG maintainers saving lives daily, they're laying the foundation of remotely piloted airpower for the future.

Despite the challenges of the 432 MXG they continue to complete the mission and pass inspections with over 90 percent mission capability rates.

"I have never been with a more skilled, disciplined, professional group of warriors than here at the 432nd Maintenance Group," Burks said. "Every day they are phenomenal and I could not be more proud to serve with the men and women of the 432nd."

Engage

Facebook Twitter
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: It’s a great day to be an Airman. Today Barbara Barrett officially became our 25th @SecAFOfficial. The men and women…
RT @DeptofDefense: Fill em up! ⛽ KC-135 Stratotankers from @RAFMildenhall refueled over 80 F-15s in a two-day exercise, offloading 480,000…
RT @SecAFOfficial: Today I officially became the 25th Secretary of the #AirForce. I'm conscious of the extraordinary privilege of working w…
RT @HQUSAFEPA: #BomberTaskForceEurope 20-1 is in full swing and B-52s from @TeamBarksdale are operating out of RAF Fairford to improve bomb…
RT @EsperDoD: During #CyberSecurityAwarenessMonth, I challenge all @DeptofDefense employees to stay committed, ensuring they are following…
RT @AirNatlGuard: Special Delivery! ✈️📦 The @109thAW teamed up with the @RCAF_ARC for Operation Boxtop, an annual resupply mission to suppo…
We strive to increase our Airmen's lethality and capabilities. Learn about firefighters leading the cost-effective… https://t.co/Nrgx3BSrtl
RT @EsperDoD: Congratulations to Barbara Barrett for her overwhelming bipartisan confirmation by @SenateGOP & @SenateDems to be the 25th Se…
Gen. Stephen Wilson visited Houston to help #SpaceCity celebrate #AstronautWeek. He visited @spacecenterhouston and… https://t.co/Nymvd98qvQ
Our Airmen continuously work to strengthen our alliances. Learn more about how EOD partnered with Niger Armed Force… https://t.co/VwRIOnBokn
Stay tuned for an upcoming episode of #HoustonWeHavePodcast by @NASA_Johnson where Gen Wilson joins Air Force Colon… https://t.co/Y7u9cHFtOt
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: This is an exciting day for our Air Force. Secretary Barrett brings an incredible background and a level of strategic…
The Senate has confirmed the 25th Secretary of the Air Force, Barbara Barrett. https://t.co/Y6kDGD5eds
RT @DoDHealth: #DYK? Many @TRICARE beneficiaries may qualify to purchase vision insurance through the Federal Employees Dental and Vision I…
Hello #Chicago! SrA Genesis Martinez Arteaga grew up in Chicago and has great things to say about the city, click… https://t.co/o8gFv5YYhp
RT @cmsaf18: It's a great day for our teammates in every corner of the DoD! Our brothers and sisters in service are in the best hands possi…
RT @DVIDSHub: This is what it’s like to be a piece of #military cargo being dropped from an aircraft. Try not to get dizzy! … https://t.co…
RT @AF_Football: The C-17 is the newest member of the Air Power Legacy and honors the nine Air Force bases home to the aircraft with tail f…
RT @HQ_AFMC: The @usairforce Life Cycle Management Center will hold a #PitchDay Nov 13-14 in Dayton, OH focused on awarding on-the-spot, Ph…
RT @HQ_AFMC: The newest @usairforce software development lab is coming to downtown Macon, Georgia. "We want to expose the work that we’re d…