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Expeditionary maintenance group gets fuel flying

by Capt. Matthew Shovelski
376th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron

9/12/2007 - MANAS AIR BASE, Kyrgyzstan (AFPN) -- With jet fuel burning and the ramp radiating heat, another KC-135 Stratotanker is launched from Manas Air Base to support coalition aircraft over Afghanistan.

Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, the men and women of the 376th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's KC-135 Aircraft Maintenance Unit provide safe and reliable aircraft in support of the ongoing operations in Afghanistan.
A rigorous daily maintenance routine means the wing can fly the missions tasked to them by the Combined Air Operations Center, supporting coalition objectives each and every day. 

Members do not let the heat or the high operations tempo get them down. 

"Working in the extreme heat builds character," said Senior Airman Anthony Barker, a crew chief from the 92nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Fairchild AFB, Wash.

This attitude is typical of the group, said Lt. Col. Gerry Frederick, the 376th Expeditionary Maintenance Group commander. 

"You couldn't find a better group of professional maintainers anywhere in the Air Force. They make the near impossible look easy," said Colonel Frederick, who is deployed from Grand Forks AFB, N.D., and took command in May. 

The accomplishments of the KC-135 AMU since the beginning of air and expeditionary forces 7 and 8 are nothing short of remarkable, said unit leadership. 

The team deployed from Fairchild AFB has supported nearly 625 sorties and off-loaded more than 36 million pounds of fuel to almost 2,520 coalition aircraft over a three-month period.

"We put an astounding amount of aircraft in the air and off-loaded millions of pounds of fuel to guarantee our nation's freedoms," said Tech. Sgt. David Robinson, a KC-135 crew chief. 

Every time a KC-135 launches out for a mission, it delivers much-needed fuel for the aircraft flying combat air patrols over the skies of Afghanistan. The fuel allows the combat aircraft to put "bombs on target" and save coalition lives every day. The maintainers are diligently working behind the scenes to fill every line on the flying schedule in order to make the mission happen. 

The "youngest" KC-135 at Manas is 44 years old. But despite the age, maintainers are able to achieve an impressive aircraft mission capable rate and a very high logistics departure reliability rate, which translates into on-time takeoffs.

From crew chiefs to the specialists, every single maintainer is part of a finely tuned maintenance machine that operates around the clock, every day of the year. 

"Every day is a challenge," said Senior Airman Chris Bielstein, an instrument and flight controls specialist for the KC-135, "and that's what I came here for."

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