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Coalition maintainers keep C-130 in the fight

by Capt. Jason McCree
386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

3/31/2008 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- Aircraft maintainers from the U.S. Air Force, Japanese Air Self-Defense Force and South Korean air forces teamed up during the Coalition Maintenance Exchange Program to keep deployed C-130 Hercules aircraft ready for combat recently at a Southwest Asian air base.

The exchange program matched American maintenance noncommissioned officers with Japanese and South Korean maintenance NCOs and warrant officers to exchange ideas and promote closer relations among coalition air forces who support the war on terrorism.

"Cooperation between our coalition partners here has been strong for a long time. As we worked together, we've become more interested in sharing maintenance procedures," said Lt. Col. Leonard Sipe, the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Group deputy commander who oversaw the exchange program here. "This is an education exchange program that grew from an idea to reality."

The program is scheduled to continue here during each deployment rotation and presents Airmen a unique opportunity to work with their coalition counterparts.

Staff Sgt. Ray Pontemayor, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, is one of those Airmen who had the opportunity to work with another member of the coalition. He worked with the JASDF's Iraq Reconstruction Support Airlift Wing, which is deployed to Southwest Asia to fly C-130 combat missions throughout the area of responsibility. It was a chance for Sergeant Pontemayor to turn wrenches and get his hands dirty with Japanese aircraft maintainers.

"I volunteered to participate in this program because I wanted to work (with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force) on their aircraft," said Sergeant Pontemayor who is deployed from Yokota Air Base, Japan. "The best part about working with the Japanese is seeing how they operate -- watching their everyday maintenance operations. Their work ethic is superb. They are all highly qualified technicians."

"This is a great program because even though our missions may be a bit different here, it shows that we are all a part of one team," said Sergeant Pontemayor who went to high school in Japan and speaks some Japanese. "This program does a lot to strengthen our bond."

In addition to exchanging maintenance technicians with the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force, American Airmen were also exchanged with maintainers from the South Korean air force's 58th Airlift Wing who fly airlift missions throughout Southwest Asia. South Korean Warrant Officer Hae Ok Yoon was selected to maintain American C-130s with American Airmen.

"I had my first opportunity to work with the USAF on C-130s, which is the same aircraft we operate," he said. "I have had the opportunity to learn how they maintain their aircraft, and it has been a terrific opportunity."

"During my time working with the United States, I have seen that they take great care in taking care of their personnel," he said. "I have learned that the United States and Korean forces can work together while deployed in theater."

"The 386th Maintenance Group and coalition maintenance units have a long-standing relationship," Colonel Sipe said. "We were glad to get this program up and running. It has really caught on here and we are cementing our relationships. The program gives our maintainers a chance to see how our coalition partners get the mission done. It also gives our coalition partners insight into how we accomplish our mission. When it comes down to it, we all have the same end goal -- putting 'Hercs' in the air."

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