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Deployed unit turns fuel into freedom

by Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

10/10/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN)  -- Members of the 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit here are supporting the war on terrorism with their fleet of more than 20 KC-135 Stratotankers.

During the past four months, members of the 340th AMU supported more than 3,200 sorties, which provided 107 million pounds of fuel to more than 14,000 aircraft.

The 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron flies between 20 to 30 flights, or sorties, a day, said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Kuehn, the specialist flight expeditor for the night shift.

"We have more planes here than we have parking spots for, so we always have aircraft in the air," said Sergeant Kuehn, deployed here from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.

As maintenance professionals perform their launch and recovery procedures, flightline operations appear normal for a deployed location. However, it doesn't take long to discover things are not always as they seem.

Keeping everyone's morale and welfare in mind, the 340th AMU supervisors developed a new system to keep everyone out of the heat as much possible. Each member of the specialist flight was trained to launch and recover aircraft.

"It takes a few launch and recovery operations to fully train one of our guys," Sergeant Kuehn said. "This is the only base where the entire specialist flight performs launch and recovery, not only in the area of responsibility, but also Air Force-wide."

"This squadron is a key to the persistent, unblinking and lethal airpower we need across the AOR to keep our combat edge in a very tough fight," said Col. Robert Gass, 379th Expeditionary Maintenance group commander.

To provide full coverage for maintenance and flying, the 340th AMU has overlapping shifts, one beginning at midnight and another at 10:30 a.m., with turnovers arriving 12 hours later.

"Normally (specialists) launch the jets here and the crew chiefs recover," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Wade, assigned to the 340th AMU and deployed from MacDill AFB, Fla.

The beginning of the shift is usually fairly light, Sergeant Kuehn said. Most of the take-offs occur midday and don't land for the day until late at night. The majority of the 340th's flying is conducted during the day leaving most of the maintenance up to the night crews.

And although aircraft may not break down often, it does happen.

"If you aren't launching or recovering jets out here, you're working maintenance issues," Sergeant Kuehn said.

Members of the 340th AMU support more than 90 percent of U.S. aircraft assigned throughout the AOR by turning fuel into freedom.

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