News>Wing aircraft, members operate from remote location
Members of the 94th Airlift Wing lift a C-130 Hercules using specialized jack stands to work on the front landing gear at Maxwell Air Force Base July 10. Members of the 94th AW were relocated form Dobbins ARB to Maxwell AFB as part of a mini deployment so that they could continue to train and remain combat ready. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airmen Elizabeth Gaston)
Senior Master Sgt. K. Scott Cook tells members of the 94th Maintenance Group what the plan will be for replacing a valve within the wing of a C-130 Herucules at Maxwell Air Force Base July 10. Members of the 94th AW were relocated form Dobbins ARB to Maxwell AFB as part of a mini deployment so that they could continue to train and remain combat ready. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airmen Elizabeth Gaston)
Members of the 94th Airlift Wing lift a C-130 Hercules using specialized jack stands to work on the front landing gear at Maxwell Air Force Base on July 10. Members of the 94th AW were relocated from Dobbins ARB to Maxwell AFB as part of a mini deployment so that they could continue to train and remain combat ready during the Dobbins runway closure. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airmen Elizabeth Gaston)
The Dobbins flightline is closed for repair during the month of July. Over half of the wing’s aircraft are deployed, supporting operations in the middle east. The remaining have relocated to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., during the renovation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Peek)
Airmen 1st Class Ian McKibben and Charles Flannigan, of the 94th Maintenance Group, work on removing the shroud around the bleed ducting in a C-130 Hercules engine at Maxwell Air Force Base July 10. Members of the 94th Airlift Wing were relocated form Dobbins ARB to Maxwell AFB as part of a mini deployment so they could continue to train and remain combat ready. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airmen Elizabeth Gaston)
by Senior Airman Elizabeth Gaston
94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
7/17/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Almost 200 miles from Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Airmen of the 94th Maintenance Group were faced with an interesting task, repairing the aluminum alloy ducting in one of their C-130 engines.
Three junior enlisted Airmen, noticeably younger in appearance, were doing the heavy lifting, disassembling the offending ducting and operating the lift or hefting tools to assist with other maintenance tasks on the C-130.
Three seasoned noncommissioned and senior noncommissioned officers were keeping watchful eyes on their Airmen, making sure the standards for their career field and, of course, safety were followed to the letter.
"This is the perfect opportunity for our Airmen to deal with unique and real-world core tasks," said Tech. Sgt. Ralph Zeruto, of the 94th Maintenance Group.
This is, in reality, a month-long temporary duty assignment. Over 100 Airmen and three C-130 Hercules that have currently relocated to Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., will be rotated out halfway through, and joined by members of the 80th Aerial Port Squadron and 94th Aeromedical Squadron, so as many members of the wing as possible will have the opportunity to operate in this unfamiliar setting - on someone else's home turf.
Given that over 100 members of the 94th Airlift Wing are currently deployed to Southwest Asia, the wing leadership is treating this TDY as a mini-deployment.
The 94th Airlift Wing members are operating out of Maxwell AFB because the runway at Dobbins has closed for scheduled maintenance, according Clarence Miller, 94th AW airfield operations manager.
"We're going to complete several projects that have been in planning for about 14 months," said Miller. "The main project is to replace all of the joint sealant on the runway, which is 300 feet wide and 10,000 feet long. Also, we are going to clean the runway and remove built-up rubber from the aircraft landing areas. Finally, in places that need it, we are pouring new concrete, as well as repainting parts of the runway."
Miller confirmed that the preferred time of year to do work like this is during the summer, when weather should be less of an issue, and crews will be working around the clock to complete these projects.
"Aircraft put a lot of stress on a runway, so it's important that the airfield is kept up," concluded Miller. "If you have a runway that starts to fail, then our mission will fail. The mission drives our requirements. If we plan properly, and shut down the runway when we choose to complete this maintenance, then we can avoid shutting down when we aren't planning to."
With the Dobbins ARB runway down, members of the 908th Airlift Wing, based at Maxwell AFB, have opened their doors to their neighboring C-130 wing, according to members of the 94th AW.
Not only have they willing and enthusiastically offered up support that would be expected of any gracious host, but the 908th AW has continually made every accomodation they could for members of the 94th. From workspace and office needs to equipment and extra training opportunities, the members of the 908th have gone above and beyond.
"We have been here in the past, during scheduled maintenance of our runway at Dobbins," said Lt. Col. Mitch Clowe, 700th Airlift Squadron navigator scheduler and the current mission commander. "Since we have such a good working relationship with the 908th AW and the 357th Airlift Squadron, we were able to call them up."
According to both 94th AW aircrews and maintainers, they are close enough to home so that many can travel home, should the need arise. Yet they are far enough away that some¬ Airmen have had to put plans in place for family members to take on daily responsibilities that are normally shared - similar to plans that would be in place when they actually deploy.
For aircrews, the terrain and weather patterns are different than those around Dobbins. However, it is very much business as usual for them as they are familiar with flying to many locations. C-130 aircrews have the ability to land in austere locations as it is.
"We would be flying about the same schedule at Dobbins," said Clowe. "Generally, our aircrews are more experienced, so we are here keeping them qualified to fly. We're not doing much different than we would be doing from home, because we prepare constantly."
The flying mission of the 94th AW must still go on.
"We can't just take a month off, we have to maintain our training requirements," said Senior Airman Mark Hanson, 700th Airlift Squadron loadmaster. "To take a month off, would ground a lot of aircrews."
Hanson has been deployed with Airmen from Dyess Air Force Base as a Reservist. He was able to do so, because he remains in a constant state of readiness and is current on his training.
Unlike the experienced aircrews, there are many new Airmen in the maintenance group who are still in seasoning training and must become qualified to perform work on C-130s. Airmen like Airman 1st Class Emily Tucker, 94th Maintenance Group C-130 crewchief, who is in the final months of her seasoning training.
"At first it was unexpected, but I like being here because being in the different environment does enrich my seasoning training," said Tucker. "I definitely felt like I was stepping into someone else's home, and I didn't want to come in and intrude. Both groups, the 94th and the 908th get along really well, though."
Both the aircrews and maintainers have had, and will have, the opportunity on this TDY to exchange ideas and best practices with the 908th AW.
94th AW seasoning training Airmen went over to the 908th AW's isochronal inspection dock to observe a strut change on a new type of aircraft brake, according to Tucker. They were allowed to actually participate in changing the struts out, which was something that she had not done before - the senior maintainers from the host unit taught and demonstrated this new process to the Airmen.
All the participating Airmen are interacting with their units on a continual basis and building stronger bonds being away from home, the benefits of which have already become apparent to senior leadership.
"Everybody has come together more at Maxwell because, instead of closing up shop and going home at the end of the day, we get together to do things like play football," said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Cook, 94th Maintenance Group production superintendent. "Not just one shop, but all of us. Once you build this type of camaraderie across shop lines, it makes work come together so much better. We are a more cohesive unit."
Wingmanship, whether on a deployment, TDY or home station, is worth more than gold.