Moody Airmen practice rapid deployment
By Senior Airman S.I. Fielder, 347th Rescue Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 24, 2006
MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Moody Airmen teamed together Feb. 3 at the 41st Helicopter Maintenance Unit hangar to practice preparing HH-60G Pave Hawks for rapid shipment.
A select group of 347th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron HMU Airmen paired with 41st Rescue Squadron aircrew members to begin training with the “Lightning Bolt” concept, which focuses on developing teamwork to deploy three HH-60Gs inside a C-5 Galaxy or two C-17 Globemasters.
“Lightning Bolt is a concept of operations that will allow us to rapidly deploy and respond anywhere in the world,” said Lt. Col. Harry Brosofsky, 41st RQS assistant operations officer and project officer for the Lightning Bolt concept development. “We’d be up and running in a matter of hours. Once there, we could operate for up to 14 days with minimal support.”
Current operation plans require a significant amount of time, equipment and people to support deployments of 30 days or more. The Lightning Bolt concept, however, is not designed for those types of deployments, said Senior Master Sgt. John Fitton, 347th Maintenance Group Lightning Bolt project manager. It is meant for operations similar to the Hurricane Katrina response.
“Right now it takes (one team) about three to four hours to get one aircraft prepped and folded, and that’s with people who know what they’re doing,” Sergeant Fitton said. “This (new plan) will take an hour each, and so they’ll be (preparing) three aircraft in the same time it normally takes to prepare one.”
Another benefit of this concept is the reduction in the amount of equipment required for the mission. Lightning Bolt cuts down the normal deployment package significantly, said Sergeant Fitton.
“On a normal deployment, we take everything but the kitchen sink with us,” he said. “In this instance, we wouldn’t. It’s a more specialized kit sealed and set off to the side.”
The plan also utilizes Airmen who are trained for the specialized mission and are ready to deploy on short notice. When there’s a specialized team, it becomes easier to get the mission done, the sergeant said.
“Best case scenario, everybody will be trained to do it,” he said. “Initially, we will have specific people identified to do this (because) everybody has their position.”
Once one of these specialized teams arrives in theater, the teamwork between maintainers and aircrews is essential in rebuilding the helicopters, said Sergeant Fitton.
“The goal is to train the aircrews to assist maintenance in preparing the helicopters for flight after they arrive in the area of operations,” said Colonel Brosofsky. “By having the crews assist maintenance, we can travel with a (smaller) team without losing capability.”
Friday’s exercise allowed the aircrews to learn the “nuts and bolts” of the Lightning Bolt concept. To make sure everyone was on the same page, a generic training plan was developed to outline what the maintainers would teach the aircrews, said Staff Sgt. Jason Krokos, 347th AMXS crew chief and Lightning Bolt trainer.
“We taught each (aircrew member) their specific job assignment for the tear-down and build-up process,” he said. “We started off slow because this is a learning process for them.”
The aircrews assisted with folding the helicopter’s main rotor blades and adjusting the main landing gear struts. These operations must be performed so the three helicopters can fit inside a C-5 or two C-17.
“The ramp is very steep (into an airlift aircraft),” said Sergeant Fitton. “When you come up (the ramp), the bottom of the helicopter will scrape the floor of the aircraft if you don’t adjust the struts.”
The aircrews also helped lift equipment and tie everything down inside the cabin, while the HMU Airmen took care of the maintenance-specific operations. This example of teamwork demonstrates the strong relationship between maintainers and aircrew, said Colonel Brosofsky.
“We live by the team concept,” said Staff Sgt. Mike Vincent, 41st RQS aerial gunner. “We live together, work together and get along.”
Lightning Bolt is similar to a concept implemented by Air Force Special Operations Command 10 years ago.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel, we are just trying to make it better and smarter,” Colonel Brosofsky said. “The capability for this went away, but we are trying to reintroduce it to the Air Force.”
The Airmen hope the concept will be adopted as an operations plan and listed as a capability these units can provide, Sergeant Fitton said. Similar concepts are also being tested at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., and Nellis AFB, Nev.
“The concept behind Lightning Bolt is a faster, leaner, more efficient way to get into theater,” said Sergeant Fitton. “We can be there in a limited amount of time and go perform a rescue, whether it’s one specific person or a specific group of people.”