Maintainers keep Max Thunder rolling
By Staff Sgt. Eric Burks , 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published October 21, 2010
KWANGJU AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
This week, maintenance Airmen from Osan and Kunsan Air Bases have been working around the clock to keep their F-16 Fighting Falcons finely tuned and flying on schedule here during Max Thunder 10-02.
Max Thunder, a bilateral training exercise designed to demonstrate interoperability between U.S. and ROK military forces on the peninsula, kicked off Oct. 15 as more than 600 U.S. and ROK Airmen and 37 aircraft deployed here to execute and sustain flight operations. Out of more than 300 U.S. Airmen here, approximately 200 are maintenance personnel.
As of Oct. 22, only three Max Thunder sorties have been grounded due to maintenance issues, while 109 of 112 had successfully launched. This high success rate speaks to the dedication and keen attention to detail displayed by these Airmen.
"Max Thunder is a great opportunity for Airman stationed on the Korean peninsula to work together and hone their skills at a deployed location, said Maj. Daniel Mattioda, 8th Maintenance Squadron. "Aircraft maintainers from Osan and Kunsan are provided a unique experience to highlight their versatility and ability to provide mission-ready aircraft, giving our pilots the capability to fly, fight and win."
With day and night sorties being launched during Max Thunder, there are day, night and swing shifts for maintainers. Senior Airman Jonicko Dela Cruz, 51st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, said the day shift personnel keep the sorties flying on time, troubleshooting and correcting any minor issues and ensuring the jets are safe to launch. Night and swing shift personnel perform any heavy maintenance necessary on the jets during longer overnight breaks between sorties.
Staff Sgt. Derek Doiron, 80th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief, said that having more time to work with the aircraft on the ground gives the night shift allows for more complex inspections at the end of the flying day.
"We go over absolutely everything ... routine maintenance, minor problems identified during the day shift and any necessary heavy maintenance," he said. "From changing tires and light bulbs to servicing hydraulic and fuel systems, we're here to ensure the aircraft is ready for the next day's mission."
Sergeant Doiron said the biggest challenge maintainers face during any temporary duty assignment is the supply and inventory of parts. "Everything we do is on a timetable, so it's critical to have aircraft parts when we need them."
Fortunately, he said, Kwangju is just 75 miles from Kunsan, so any parts needed have arrived very quickly.
But at the end of the day - or night - it doesn't matter whether the aircraft are flying out of Osan, Kunsan, or a TDY location. Maintainers simply keep the planes flying and ensure our ability to meet the mission.
The co-located environment also provided for the opportunity for maintainers from Osan and Kunsan to work together, sharing not only parts, but a wealth of job experience.
"If they need any help, we lend a hand, and if we need anything we have no problem asking them," said Sergeant Doiron.
Max Thunder 10-02 concludes Oct. 22.