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Crew chiefs turn bombers like fighters

by Master Sgt. Rich Romero
40th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs

8/3/2005 - OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM (AFPN) -- Postmen have nothing on these guys, particularly Tech. Sgt. Shannon Reynolds, a crew chief with the 40th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron at this forward-deployed location.

He is one of 37 crew chiefs from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., who not only contend with bitterly cold winters and mountains of snow during winters at home, but now must endure heat, humidity and buckets of rain while deployed here during the “winter” season.

Sergeant Reynolds, however, has racked up his frequent flier miles with 633 days deployed at this location since 1992. He will hit at least 673 by the time he leaves, hopefully for the last time, he said.

“You never can tell,” Sergeant Reynolds said about a possible eighth deployment here.

While he and the others may not deliver mail, they certainly deliver reliable B-52 Stratofortresses -- to the tune of a 10.5-percent total nonmission maintenance-capable rate.

“This is a measure of how well we fix and keep aircraft flyable,” said Capt. Chris Boring, a maintenance operations officer. “The (Air Combat Command) standard is 22 percent. We’re pushing it down each month from a 21.3 percent in May to nearly 10 percent in July.”

Such rates are hard to achieve, particularly with bigger and heavier aircraft as compared to fighters, Sergeant Reynolds said.

“We’re turning these like they’re fighters,” he said. “It didn’t use to be like that five to eight year ago.”

Sergeant Reynolds said it is the caliber of people and newer maintenance equipment which allows crew chiefs to considerably drop the aircraft turnaround time. It also comes from a strong mechanical background and pride, he said.

“It’s kind of like detailing your car,” Sergeant Reynolds said. “You take pride in your aircraft just like (some) people do with their cars, but (an aircraft) tends to cost a little bit more.”

The tasks required of crew chiefs are many -- post-flight, preflight and walk-around inspections of the aircraft, acceptance and transfer inspections, ground-handling operations, launch and recovery, as well as general aircraft maintenance.

With a real-world mission of close-air support to coalition troops in Afghanistan, the crew chiefs are performing those tasks more often than at home station.

“The aircraft are breaking a lot more, too, (because of) the extended flight time,” Sergeant Reynolds said.

However, that is not what frustrates him and other wrench-turners. It is the difficultly in getting parts and supplies that complicate the job.

“We deployed with a lot of stuff, and we’ve gone through much of it,” he said. “We’re getting parts now from wherever we can, however we can.”

While maintaining a steady supply of parts and supplies remains a challenge here, Sergeant Reynolds has seen great a lot of improvement in other areas during his nearly two years here.

“I’ve seen a lot of things come and go,” he said. “There was no tent city at first. We lived in enlisted aircrew dorms. The only things left of those are two concrete slabs.

“The (morale, welfare and recreation) programs are great here, (too),” he said. “You make the best of it.”

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