January 29th, 2007 04:54 EST
Deployed Maintainers Launch 200 Perfect Sorties
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam (AFNEWS) -- Some records can only be matched, never broken. One such record was set this week by the maintainers of the 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, who successfully launched their 200th consecutive B-52 Stratofortress sortie with a 100-percent mission effectiveness rate during a five-month deployment here.
The unit deployed from Minot AFB, N.D., in September, caring for six B-52s providing the U.S. Pacific commander a continuous bomber presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
"I could never have imagined we would be able to launch 200 out of 200 aircraft in this deployment," said Maj. Steven Green, 36th EAMXS commander. "This wasn't a goal; you would never expect this to happen.
"Our B-52s are almost 50 years old, and it can be a challenge to keep them flying at home, much less halfway around the world," he said. "For us, we just took it one step at a time. We didn't change what we do every day, and the next thing you know, you're looking at some pretty impressive numbers."
While the Minot-based maintainers were confident in their day-to-day ability to launch aircraft, there were several obstacles between the Airmen and their perfect record.
"To be honest, we got lucky and caught a couple of breaks, but there was nothing we couldn't fix," said Master Sgt. Frantz Juan-Pierre, 36th EAMXS airframe power plant/general section chief. "I've crewed B-52s all my career, and this was the best group of maintainers I've ever seen in action."
Squadron leaders said Airmen assigned to the squadron often worked long hours to prepare the B-52s for daily missions departing Andersen AFB. The 200 sorties included missions in support of exercises across the Pacific theater over locations including Australia and South Korea.
In addition, the bombers had to be prepared to support Pacific-area contingency taskings in addition to their scheduled missions. During their five months away from Minot, there were several missions that almost broke the streak, but one stood out above the rest.
"Probably the closest call we had to cancel a mission was when we had two B-52s with a failed number three engine pod strut valve -- both at the exact same time right before launch," said Capt. Randy Schwinler, 36th EAMXS aircraft maintenance unit officer in charge.
"None of us in the squadron had ever seen anything like that happen, and when it did, it put us in a bind," Captain Schwinler said. "However, our teams' professionalism prevailed. The aircrew went through their checklists, the maintainers went through their technical orders, and everyone pulled together to find the best course of action.
"That launch was a great example of how teamwork made our mission, and our record possible," said Captain Schwinler. "The operations people and the maintenance people came together, and the support we had from our Team Andersen partners was top notch. Those planes don't leave the ground unless everyone pulled together the way they did."
According to Major Green, the experience from this deployment reinforced the lessons he's learned during a 24-year Air Force career.
"People want to be successful," he said. "If you give your people the tools they need and empower them to do their jobs, they can do almost anything. We proved you can take a 45-year-old aircraft halfway around the world, stretch the supply chain as far as it can go - and still complete the mission. We've set the bar high for the rotations to follow."
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by Senior Master Sgt. Don Perrien
36th Expeditionary Operations Group
SOURCE: US Air Force