Saturday, October 18, 2008

Maintainers put the 'Hawgs' in Hawgsmoke 2008

by Master Sgt. Bill Huntington
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

10/17/2008 - SALINA, Kan. -- Even though there was no flying on the third, and final, day of Hawgsmoke 2008, the United States Air Force's biennial A-10 Thunderbolt II bombing and tactical gunnery competition, the flight line at Salina Airport was still the scene of activity as maintainers serviced aircraft in preparation for their return home.

While the pilots waited for the results of the competition, A-10 maintainers turned to the tasks of any needed repair, aircraft return configuration and, in the hangar, packing equipment and cleaning up. Fortunately, because of daily maintenance and extensive pre-planning, repair needs were minimal.

There is a sometimes-heard adage on the flight line that the pilot's name may be on the jet but it really belongs to the crew chief. It is the maintainers that keep the jets in operating shape and, for many of them; it's a labor of love.

"I've loved it [here]," said Senior Airman Gentry Cline, a 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "I've been really busy here and that's the way I like to do business."

Hawgsmoke 2008 also marked the first time that all three models of the A-10 occupied a flight line together. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command A-10A, A-10A+ and A-10C qualified maintainers from Barksdale Air Force Base, La.; Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Pa.; Whiteman AFB, Mo.; Boise, Idaho; Ft. Smith, Ark.; and Battle Creek, Mich.; joined forces to keep the jets flying.

"This is the first time I've gotten to see this many jets [from different units] all lined up," Airman Cline said. "I got to work with the other units and see how they did things. It was a little bit different but at the same time it was effective.

For the maintainers, the road to Hawgsmoke 2008 was fraught with obstacles. For all the units, the Air Force's announcement of a time-compliance technical order (TCTO) that required immediate inspection and repair of wing cracks on approximately 130 A-10s throughout the fleet. For the Whiteman Airmen, in addition to the TCTO announcement, those obstacles ranged from an Afghanistan Operation Enduring Freedom deployment from May to July of this year to a home station phase-one Operation Readiness Exercise in early October.

According to Chief Master Sgt. Rick Harter, Hawgsmoke 2008 maintenance NCOIC and the 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent, since a phase-one ORE tests a units ability to deploy troops and equipment, they decided to use the opportunity to their advantage in getting their equipment to Salina.

"We decided that with the exercise, we'd coordinate that what we were taking to Salina would be used for the cargo processing for the ORE," Chief Harter said.

Instead of cargo palettes being marshaled on the Whiteman flight line in a row on the ramp simulating a cargo aircraft, the cargo was loaded on to a C-5A Galaxy aircraft and flown to Salina. Two requirements were met as a result.

In summarizing Hawgsmoke 2008 Chief Harter had nothing but praise for all of the maintainers in helping make the event a success. He said he was especially grateful for the level of support provided by the Salina Airport. From facilities to fuel trucks he said they more than exceeded his expectations at every level.

Even though Hawgsmoke 2008 is officially behind them, the A-10 maintainers look ahead to other challenges and opportunities. When asked if he'd want to come back in two years to support the next competition, slated to be hosted by the Hawgsmoke 2008 winners, the Idaho Air National Guard's 190th Fighter Squadron at Boise, Idaho, Airman Cline didn't hesitate to answer.

"Yes," he said. "Absolutely!"

Master Sgt. John Ezell, 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, left, assists Maj. Preston McConnell, a 303rd Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot after Major McConnell's arrival at the Salina, Kan., airport for Hawgsmoke 2008, the Air Force's biennial A-10 bombing and gunnery competition. Both Airmen are Air Force reservists bsed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. (US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Bill Huntington) Hi-res


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