One aircraft, two owners: Hawgsmoke builds on pilot, maintainer bond
By Andrea Jenkins, 23d Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 23, 2021
MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- Maintenance professionals work countless hours on the flightline to prepare and equip aircraft for each sortie, while pilots must trust their lives to the quality of the maintenance.
This relationship is honed and proven through countless deployments, exercises and most recently, Hawgsmoke 2021, a biennial aerial gunnery competition that took place April 14-17 at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.
“Often times it’s the operators who are the face of the mission, however, to me the mission is from generation to airborne execution, and then fixing for regeneration,” said Col. Ryan Haden, 23d Fighter Group commander and A-10C Thunderbolt II pilot. “Without our maintainers there would be no operation … it always has and will be one team for me.
“For these reasons Hawgsmoke is no different, I’ve always felt you are who you surround yourself with, and the community I am proud to be a part of is comprised of both operators and maintainers,” added Haden. “Hawgsmoke is about community, it promotes our culture, and it is for this entire team. The culture that we have in our community permeates both operators and maintainers and that is why we have been taking it to the enemy longer and better than anyone else.”
Hawgsmoke 2021 brought 13 A-10 aircraft units from across the globe to compete to see who ultimately has the best “hawg drivers,” maintenance professionals and weapons load crews.
“We have really good relationships – we both understand what we have to do to get it done,” said Senior Airman Brandon Watts, 924th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “We respect each other and we do what we need to do to get the mission done. We came here to win. (The pilots) brought the jets and we've got (the skill) to get all the jets serviced and ready to go to make sure the pilots are good to go to launch out and do their jobs.”
It takes nearly 13,000 U.S. Air Force pilots and more than triple that amount of maintainers to ready the service’s aircraft in order to maintain a lethal combat edge to fly, fight and win.
“I've been a pilot for my entire adult life and it’s because of maintenance that I'm still here,” said Col. Jim Greenwald, 944th Fighter Wing commander at Luke Air Force Base, Az. “Of the thousands of sorties I've flown – from combat sorties to training sorties, every single one of them is made possible by the efforts of hundreds of maintainers. That is not lost on me. I have an extremely soft spot in my heart for my brothers and sisters out on the flightline because they do the work that keeps me safe.”
According to Greenwald, teamwork and culture have permeated every aspect of his career from pilot training on, and the connection between pilots and maintainers is built on culture and trust and is reaffirmed at every sortie.
“The thousands of times that I've flown, there’s that quick salute from my crew chief as I'm heading out – it only takes one second but it means a lot,” said Greenwald. “You know, it's that kind of eyeball to eyeball, ‘okay I got it from here thanks for your professionalism. And I'll bring it back to you here in a in a little while.’ And that's one of the tremendous pieces of Air Force culture that we have. And we see that and the relationships here (at Hawgsmoke).”