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Nocturnal workers: Airmen keep the mission going long after the sun goes down

by Airman 1st Class Tarelle Walker
379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

6/10/2008 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- While most Airmen are comfy in their beds, the flightline here is buzzing with activity and the mission continues. Airmen are covered in sweat, loading bombs, fueling and fixing planes 24 hours a day to preserve freedom.

"At night, the sun has burned off most of the humidity and isn't beating down on the (tankers) any more," said Staff Sgt. Chad Arrowsmith, a KC-135 Stratotanker crew chief deployed from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D, who works noon to midnight each day.

After dark on the flightline, it's nice and peaceful, about 10 to 15 degrees cooler, he said.

"I like working at night because during the day, the aircraft metal gets to be just like a hot tin roof, hard to touch without gloves," he said. "At night, though, visibility is less. So it's a trade-off."

The Airmen's hard work has nothing to do with recognition, said Airman 1st Class Ed Kovalcin, a 37th Aircraft Maintenance Unit B-1B Lancer crew chief deployed from Ellsworth AFB, S.D.

"This is what we do, no matter if we get recognition or not, we're out here for a job. When I see a jet take off, I see freedom. I know we did our job and the mission is successful," he said.

Most Air Force flightline operations are 24/7, and in a deployed environment it's no different, except the missions are real-world, said Tech. Sgt. David Algire, a 37th AMU depot field team chief deployed from Tinker AFB, Okla.

"There's real bombs being dropped and lives being lost. We're taking the fight to the terrorists. We're trying to win this thing and make a better life at home for everybody," he said.

Escaping the heat seems to be the number one advantage of working at night. Cooler temperatures also make for higher morale. The Airmen on the flightline work very hard without the benefit of an air conditioned office to shield them from the sun, but nevertheless they are extremely proud of what they do, they said.

"At night, you can see the afterburners of the B-1Bs that are taking off," said Staff Sgt. David Nygaard , B-1B crew chief. "After a good, long day of work, it makes you feel like you made a difference in the world -- and you're glad you're not the Taliban."

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