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Scrubbing pads join cluster bombs in crucial fight

Released: April 9, 2003


By Tech. Sgt. Jason Tudor
457th Air Expeditionary Group


OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM (USAFENS) -- To the arsenal of Air Force cluster bombs, joint direct-attack munitions and Maverick missiles, add scrubbing pads, towels and pressure washers.


Without them, B-52 maintainers couldn't keep this forward-deployed location's hulking, aged Stratofortresses clean and flying coalition bombing campaigns in the war against Iraq.


The group placed bomber No. 0060, Iron Butterfly, in to the "contingency phase" April 7. The phase comes with every 300 hours of flying.  As a part of that phase, the airplanes are inspected and repaired.  But first, there is the trip to the wash rack where about a dozen maintainers waited to wash it.


Airman 1st Class Clint Kruetzbender, one several maintainers washing a Buff for the first time here, said having a clean airplane means a safe airplane in combat.


"If we don't wash it, we won't find the defects," Kruetzbender said. "If we don't find the defects, something might fall off -- and we don't want something falling off over Baghdad."


After crew chiefs remove the engine cowlings and set them on the ground, the wash crew goes to work.  Applying the soap, workers scrub the inside of the cowlings and rinse them out.  As some wash those jet covers, others are washing engine mounts, wheel wells and parts of the fuselage.


The mixed dirt, oil, grease and water all flow into an underground collection tank. Those fluids are later sucked out and taken away for environmentally safe disposal by a contractor. In total, it's a six-hour process that starts the contingency phase.


Master Sgt. William Cecil, supervising the wash job April 7, said putting the hose to the bomber isn't just a duty for the "bad" children.


"Everyone gets a turn. No one's exempt from washing," Cecil said. "And the more bodies we have, the faster it goes."


It's messy work.  The fluids spatter around like a child playing in a bathtub. Most of the wash team is clad in teal green rubber suits as they scrub their way back down to the Buff's dark olive drab paint.


Despite the toil and mess of the wash, Airman 1st Class Jennifer Hensen said she's happy to do the work -- with one exception.


"We'll see what happens when I have to do it all the time," she said, laughing.

                                                                                                     -- USAFENS --

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