Active, reserve Airmen take over maintenance duties on C-145
By Tech. Sgt. Cheryl L. Foster, 919th Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 19, 2014
DUKE FIELD, Fla. -- Active duty and reserve Air Force maintainers took over responsibility for the upkeep and repairs of the 16 C-145s assigned here from Sierra Nevada Corporation contractors, July 1.
Airmen from the 592nd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron and the 919th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron became accountable for the care of the C-145s here and at two deployed locations. As the Air Force maintainers completed training faster than anticipated, the contract was moved forward from the original end date in December.
"As a credit to the trainers, the folks that built the lesson plans, and the mechanics learning, leadership was able to back the contract up six months and save the Air Force about $11 million," said Chief Master Sgt. Brett Elledge, 592nd SOMXS superintendent .
The 592nd SOMXS stood up in June 2013 as an active duty maintenance unit for the new Air Force Special Operations Command's Aviation Foreign Internal Defense mission with the c-145s.
Active duty and reserve Airmen work together on the mission through a practice known as Total Force Integration. Both components share resources, including aircraft, maintenance and support, to conduct its mission.
Previously, the 919th owned their aircraft, but with the new AVFID mission standup the aircraft belong to AFSOC.
"Our leadership works well together. That's a big reason for us to be able to work well together, too," said Master Sgt. Dustin Hurlbut, a 592nd SOMXS specialists section chief.
The two units work side by side on the aircraft, but follow different chains of command. Reservists provide a level of continuity the active cannot due to PSCs, according to Master Sgt. Ron Hoeft, a 919th SOAMXS crew chief.
"I have been here since 1998. I've learned a lot and have a lot to pass on," he said.
Each C-145 has a dedicated crew chief and an assistant dedicated crew chief assigned to it. One is an active duty Airman and the other is a reservist with equal numbers between the two components.
Leading up to the July 1 takeover, the biggest challenge the Airmen faced was becoming qualified to work on the C-145. There is no technical school or military guidance for the new aircraft. It was a civilian-made aircraft with no U.S. military connection until it was selected for the AFSOC mission.
"It's a daily learning curve. We are writing a new chapter for the Air Force," said Hoeft.
The maintainers had to build the lesson plans and training requirements from scratch.
The 15 active and reserve trainers created a 60-day course, including classroom and hands on training. They also adapted a 15-day classroom course to meet the needs of the 919th's traditional reservists.
The trainers and mechanics also had to convert the civilian manual to Air Force standard procedures and regulations.
The changes and processes are continuously fine-tuned daily to ensure the airframe meets regulations and is safe to fly. As situations occur, the new issues are annotated and funneled up the chain to leadership for inclusion in the procedures.
"It's an excellent learning environment for individuals to be diverse. We have a lot of experience working on aircraft and we've used that extensively to learn how to adapt to this particular airframe," said Hoeft.
Even though the changeover just occurred, the Airmen are already deployed in maintenance roles with the aircraft.
Since AVFID mission requires the Airmen to deploy to more diverse and sometimes dangerous locations, each maintainer must attend the 30-day air commando course at Hurlburt Field.
This course trains them to be able to defend themselves in hostile environments where they will not always be protected by a security detail. According to Elledge, the Airmen of the 592nd SOMXS and the 919th SOAMXS are the only maintenance Airmen in the Air Force required to attend this class.
To celebrate the successful takeover, the maintainers launched all the C-145s on the flightline.
"We've overcome so much (to get here) and we always have," said Chief Master Sgt. Pamela Duvall, the 919th SOAMXS superintendent. "I think that comes from the Talon days and the gunships before that. It's just the mindset of the Airmen we have."