DUKE FIELD, Fla. --
As Citizen Air Commandos continue to telework and incorporate social distancing into their daily routines, there are some essential workers who have to leave home in the early morning hours and head to work every day.
This small group of 919th Special Operations Wing members are ones whose job must be performed at Duke Field to ensure the wing remains ready and available if the nation calls.
Tech. Sgt. Dante Davis, a crew chief in the 919th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, is one of those members who goes to work daily to keep the wing’s C-146A aircraft flying. He and two other Airmen in the 919th Special Operations Maintenance Group recently completed upgrade training amid the COVID-19 imposed restrictions.
“We still have missions to run, so our leadership prepares us very efficiently to conquer anything out here,” said Davis.
The 919th SOMXG developed innovated ways to continue training in order to keep service members healthy, maintain mission operations and keep Airmen ready to deploy for overseas contingency operations.
“We have established rolling work shifts that minimizes a member’s exposure to other members within the organization to meet the social distancing guidelines set by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], but at the same time continue to do upgrade training,” said Lt. Col. Daniel Posch, commander of the 919th SOMXG.
On-the-job training for 919th SOMXG members requires hands-on experience to meet the criteria outlined for upgrade training.
“I can’t train somebody virtually how to change an engine because they have to be able to put their hands on the wrenches and the equipment to actually go through the methodical steps of doing those types of tasks,” said Posch.
While the rotating shifts have less people working at one time, there are still situations when Airmen need to be together to train effectively.
Senior Master Sgt. Christina Bicknell, first sergeant for the 919th SOAMXS, recognized the need for personal protective equipment and made more than 50 masks for maintenance technicians to wear when working in close proximity of each other.
“It is kind of tough, being mechanics, because we are always working two or three people on one aircraft, but we still have to practice safety and social distancing and wearing PPE,” said Davis.
The Airmen of the 919th Special Operations Maintenance Group now wear additional personal protective equipment including cloth face coverings and gloves while accomplishing vital training and mission tasks. Additionally, Airmen deep clean their work environments daily.
“Our [Sierra Nevada Corporation] partners, thinking ahead, procured enough aircraft disinfectant that we have the ability to disinfect the aircraft daily,” said Chief Master Sgt. James Jackson, 919th SOAMXS superintendent. “Our propulsion technicians are making use of the training engine in the shop. It allows them to train at a distance.”
SNC is contracted to provide the Air Force maintenance support for the C-145 Skytruck aircraft at Duke Field.
Maintainers also receive support from the wing’s numerous programs which place a significant emphasis on Airmen’s mental health. Many, if not all of the 919th SOW resiliency organizations remain accessible to Airmen, now with more virtual options for support. The chaplain is also working full time, and squadron leadership routinely reaches out to members to see if anyone needs help.
“While we are maintaining physical distancing, we are socially integrated, and no matter how separated we all may be during this time, everyone from across the total force leadership is here for everyone,” said Posch.
Editor’s Note: For the most up to date information on COVID-19 safety considerations, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Download the 919th SOW app and visit the 919th Special Operations Wing Facebook page for the most up to date information on how the wing is keeping Airmen safe.