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Barksdale maintainers keep 'Buffs' flying

by Stephanie Bemrose
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

12/7/2005 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFPN) -- Some people have compared the specialists at the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron to gears in a watch. The watch can’t tick without the gears -- just as aircraft can’t fly without the Airmen.

Within the squadron, specialists in each of the three aircraft maintenance units work behind the scenes to make sure all the B-52 Stratofortress’ aircraft systems work.

The Airmen learn one or more aircraft systems to make sure each is ready for every sortie.

“Each specialty is out there supporting the launch to ensure there are no mission breakers and that the aircraft are repaired in a timely manner prior to departing,” said Master Sgt. Tony Santiago. He is the assistant specialist section chief with the 96th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

“The hallmark to our success is that we are able to repair and generate aircraft on time,” he said. The sergeant said Airmen work hard to beat the 12-hour fix-rate standard.

When aircrew members find a broken system during a pre-flight inspection, specialists knowledgeable with the system troubleshoot and correct the problem.

Their day begins at the sortie support section. There, they check out their tools and equipment.

Then, after roll call, supervisors assign them maintenance projects. These can include recovering, repairing or troubleshooting aircraft. Then it’s off to the flightline to begin work.

At the end of a task, each tool box and piece of equipment is inventoried to make sure maintainers do not leave items on aircraft -- to be ingested by an engine, short out an electrical system or jam flight controls. Any of these problems compromise aircraft airworthiness and aircrew safety.

Airmen turn over information -- on what needs repair, what projects Airmen have been troubleshooting or repairing and the documentation of all maintenance done that day -- to the oncoming shift so they can continue where they left off.

Airman 1st Class Nathaniel Sutton, a communication and navigation systems specialist, enjoys the mental challenge of learning the career field. He said that is more interesting and much more challenging than any other job he’s done.

Although most Airmen enjoy their work, there is another side to their responsibilities.

“The specialists work long hours,” said Master Sgt. E. J. Glaude, another of the unit’s assistant specialist section chief. “An eight-hour day is a rarity here. A lot of times the turnover briefings are conducted out on the flightline as Airmen transfer shifts.”

Airmen put their Air Force core values to work while performing their duties.

“What they’re doing every day with the high operations tempo is truly putting service before self,” Sergeant Glaude said.

Sergeant Santiago adds that “a lot of Airmen take it upon themselves to report for duty early and leave late -- making sure every effort possible is taken to ensure maintenance objectives are accomplished prior to a scheduled mission.”

No Airman wants a bomber not fly because of them, Sergeant Glaude said.

“Everyone helps across the board so the aircraft will get fixed,” he said.

Keeping the aging bombers flying takes a team effort. And no unit can say they have not gotten help from another section, Sergeant Santiago said.

“The entire squadron is like that,” Segeant Santiago said. “Quite often we find different specialties helping one another in troubleshooting and repairing pre-flight maintenance discrepancies. Teamwork among the specialties goes a long way to ensuring aircrews take off on time.”

One way specialists work well together is by effective cross utilization. Some Airmen go out of their way to learn other systems -- including becoming qualified and certified to operate the systems, Sergeant Glaude said.

“There are two benefits to this,” Sergeant Glaude said. “One, more effective troubleshooting and problem-solving skills due to increased system knowledge. And, two, the ability to augment both sections and alleviate possible manning shortages.”

The squadron’s specialists are a vital part of flightline operations for their ability to fix any problem an aircraft might have -- no matter how large or small it may be to the safety or comfort of the flight crew, he said.

“We’re not called specialists for nothing,” Sergeant Glaude said. “We really are specialized.”

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