Thunder: 74th AMU keeps aircraft flying high

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Hunter
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

(Editor’s Note: This story is part three of a four-part series highlighting the different units that played a role in the 74th Fighter Squadron’s deployment.)

Last fall, the 74th Fighter Squadron deployed to Eastern Europe as part of a theater security package deployment, with a mission to deter aggression and reassure NATO allies.

With only 12 A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft flying to eight different countries for such a critical mission, it was crucial to maintain the flying status of each one.

To accomplish this, U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit performed routine maintenance, inspections, and made necessary repairs each day.

“A strong maintenance unit support package is paramount to the success of any flying squadron for many reasons,” said 1st Lt. Jason Story, 74th AMU assistant officer in charge. “We perform required aircraft inspections, refuel, launch and recovery, troubleshooting, washes, displays and much more.

“Aircraft wouldn't fly without maintainers providing safe and reliable maintenance,” Story added. “This applies for the home station but it is even more essential while deployed.”

With so many tasks to accomplish, it took nearly 30 Airmen to deploy with each jet, totaling over 300 Airmen.

“It requires people from several sections to maintain one jet during a deployment,” said Story. “These sections include crew chiefs, avionics, engines, production role, quality assurance, weapons, ammunitions and support agencies.”

Each section has their own lists of duties to perform. For example, crew chiefs launch and recover the aircraft, perform inspections, and complete routine repairs, which include: tire changes, replacing nitrogen bottles, and repairing the rudders and elevators in the flight controls.

Though their duties and tasks may have been similar to those performed on a regular basis, Airmen faced challenges overseas, unlike anything they have faced here.

“One of the main problems we faced was [logistics],” said Senior Airman Sterling Vaughan, 74th AMU support specialist technician. “We were at multiple locations, with only a certain amount of mission critical equipment spread thin throughout the countries.”

With a limited amount of necessary supplies, the mission was delayed, causing Airmen to improvise and explore other ways to keep the mission going.

 “When we were trying to leave to Bulgaria, one of the jets had to stay behind because of a couple of discrepancies that needed to be fixed,” said Vaughan. “The parts we needed, such as an auxiliary power unit and latches off the nacelle, which holds the engine, were nowhere to be found in Europe.

“Instead of waiting the months it would’ve taken for parts to be shipped to the states, we took off the needed parts from the jets that landed in Bulgaria and flew them over to where we were in Estonia,” Vaughan added. “This process is what we in the maintenance world call ‘cross canning.’”

Not only did the Airmen’s frequent traveling bring challenges, but the harsh weather in each location also caused difficulties for them.

“There were some nights where we worked 12 to 14 hour shifts in negative twenty degree weather,” said Vaughan. “That kind of weather was very different than what we were used to at Moody, where it’s rarely cold outside. Often times, we were wearing four to five layers during the deployment just to stay warm enough to work on the aircraft.”

Despite the obstacles faced throughout the deployment, Airmen were able to adapt, overcome and get the mission done.

“We just had to stay flexible,” said Vaughan. “No matter how bad the circumstances got, we were out there to fulfill a mission and we were able to push through as a team and get the job done.”

Each section within the 74th AMU came together as a team to inspect and repair aircraft in order to keep the 23d Wing’s A-10s flying and fulfilling the mission for Operation Atlantic Resolve and future missions to come.