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379th fights GWOT 24/7

by Senior Airman Erik Hofmeyer
379th Air Expeditionary Wing

2/3/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFNEWS) -- Anyone who drives around the base at night will notice much of the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing has a 24-hour operating schedule. Whether it's on the flightline or in a back shop, maintainers, operators and support personnel are working around the clock to generate combat sorties.

Some people are used to working at night, but instead of ending a day deferring work until "tomorrow," shift workers hand off to another crew to keep the unending cycle going smoothly.

Among the multitude of around-the-clock operations are the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron crew members who build bombs throughout the night to replenish expended munitions. The crew members are capable of mass producing any type of bomb that an air tasking order requires, any time of day.

"You never know what the mission entails," said Staff Sgt. Steven Johnson, 379th EMXS crew chief. "We have to be ready at a moment's notice to produce the right type of bomb to get to the target."

The aircraft maintenance Airmen who take pride in ensuring that aircraft are fully mission capable as quickly as possible, serve as another example of the wing's around-the-clock warriors.

"Aircraft maintenance is a 24-hour operation whether at home station or deployed," said Chief Master Sgt. Terrill Choy, 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent. "We're used to it."

The 55th AMU works shifts while maintaining the RC-135 Rivet Joint because it is a good fit with the daily flying schedule, he said.

The first shift arrives at the primary aircraft and performs pre-launch inspections while firing up all the systems, ensuring the aircraft is clean, and anything else to meet the air tasking order. The second shift performs the majority of the nightly recoveries by coordinating refueling, post-flight inspections and any pilot reported discrepancies, said Master Sgt. Timothy Woodard, 55th AMU production superintendent.

Regardless of the time of day, after the jet lands and the crew has been debriefed, a plan is developed on how to work the maintenance issues and prepare the jet for the next air tasking order.

"It might take a few hours, or it might take 12 hours to get the aircraft fully mission capable, depending on the type of maintenance," Sergeant Woodard said. "You can't stop what you're doing just because a shift change is coming up."

The two consecutive shifts rely on each other to put the mission first and set the next shift up for success, knowing that the same person will relieve them in 12 hours.

"I'd much rather fix something myself instead of passing it on to the next shift," said Senior Airman Eric Bullard, 379th EAMXS integrated flight control journeyman.

"We are flying real-world ISR missions everyday that are saving lives. It's what we train for and now we get to show our stuff," Sergeant Woodard said.

The maintainers are not working alone at night. Base support ensures that whenever the maintainers or aircrews need something, there is someone there for support, said Chief Master Sgt. Arvin Davis, 379th AEW command chief.

Another difference from back home is you might not see wing leadership and support functions working at night. Here, the wing, group and squadron commanders, along with chief master sergeants and first sergeants will obtain a firsthand look at night operations for one week in February and April by switching their day shifts to work through the night.

"For us to make good decisions for the entire base population, we have to reach out there and experience what everyone does around the clock," Chief Davis said.

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