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Maintainers keep planes flying at Cope Tiger

by Army Sgt. Catherine Talento
Air Force News Agency

2/7/2007 - KORAT ROYAL THAI AIR BASE, Thailand (AFNEWS) -- Maintenance personnel are in Thailand as part of Exercise Cope Tiger '07. The A-10 Thunderbolt IIs from Osan Air Base, Korea, are joined by planes from bases in Japan and Hawaii, all participating in the two-week multilateral exercise with Thailand and Singapore.

With more than 60 planes in the air at any one time, it is a large job for these maintenance teams. At the opposite end of the flightline from where the A-10s sit, a team of maintainers from the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing are servicing a returning F-15 Eagle.

"We are the last people the pilots see when they take off and the first ones they see when they land," said Tech. Sgt. Rex Godinez, an F-15 crew chief. "We basically ensure that everything is working and that everything is serviced."

Sergeant Godinez said when the planes land, maintainers look for faults or failures with the systems.

"Basically you are looking for leaks, any kind of fluid leaks, damage, anything abnormal," Sergeant Godinez said. "You definitely work on them for awhile, you know exactly what is supposed to be where and if something is missing or if something is broken."

Working thousands of miles from home presents certain challenges for the crews, but Sergeant Blevin said deployments like Cope Tiger help better prepare crews for when they have to deploy to a real world mission.

"I know for going down range you don't get the opportunity to have a lot of the equipment that you have at home," said Staff Sgt. Shirley Blevin. "Here you learn to work with what you have. You make the mission work and you make the aircraft work for the pilots to fly. So coming here, using minimal supplies, minimal tools, you learn to make things work for the pilots so that they can fly their missions."

As the crew finished work on the F-15, Sergeant Godinez summed up every maintainer's mission.

"If a plane is flying, we are working."

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