Wednesday, March 2, 2011

'Jack of all trades': AGE technicians support aircraft with vital equipment

442nd Maintenance Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment Flight prepares essential equipment to ensure the A-10 Thunderbolt II is mission ready during October 2010 unit training assembly at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. The 442nd Aerospace Ground Equipment shop, part of the 442nd Maintenance Squadron, is responsible for maintaining the equipment used to perform and inspect various functions of an A-10 Thunderbolt II. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Kent Kagarise). Hi-res

by Tech. Sgt. Kent Kagarise
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/2/2011 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- There is a long list of equipment required to keep the A-10 Thunderbolt II powered - both on the ground and in the air.

The 442nd Fighter Wing Aerospace Ground Equipment Flight keeps it all working and in order.

From month to month, Airmen who work in the AGE shop encounter new challenges on the unit training assembly weekends.

The Airmen who work in AGE have the tremendous task of making sure the flight line has operable equipment, and they work diligently to accomplish their mission.

"It's tough to list - all the things we are responsible for," said Tech. Sergeant Buck Roberts, AGE technician. "We provide auxiliary power, rather than putting time on the plane's expensive components. We also perform inspections, make necessary repairs and find needed parts."

The A-10 Thunderbolt II has been in use since 1975, so the plane and many of its parts are aging, which keeps the AGE shop in a constant state of awareness in effort to keep the 442nd FW mission-ready.

"Much of this equipment has been here since I got here 24 years ago, so the bulk of what we do is preventative maintenance, which allows us to fix things before they're broken," Sergeant Roberts said.

He said everything gets inspected at least twice a year in order to avert inopportune malfunctions, and he is proud of the role AGE plays in the wing's success.

"There's no air power without ground power -- that's us," he said.

Sergeant Roberts said he remembers being a young Airman at his first duty assignment when a first sergeant explained to him that to work in AGE meant to be a, "Jack of all trades and a master of none."

Because AGE technicians work in so many different facets, they were called once to help out when an Airman locked his keys in his car.

"They called us because we usually have the answer," Sergeant Roberts said.

Senior Airman John Marceron, AGE technician, said the biggest challenge for an AGE technician can be simply tracking down a piece of equipment through the system - then finding replacement parts if he runs into a supply limitation.

"You run the part number, the stock number and then you might have to wait for it to be delivered, and the next thing you know, something that could've taken minutes is taking you hours," Airman Marceron said.

Senior Master Sergeant Michael McQuain, aerospace ground equipment flight chief, pointed out that AGE is not just about generators and power.

"It's everything that's needed to fix an airplane and get it in the air," Sergeant McQuain said. "We supply everything needed to maintain that aircraft."

There are times that the AGE workload increases and crucial decisions have to be made.

"Equipment can start breaking left and right and you have to figure out which jobs are most mission-critical," Sergeant McQuain said.

In some cases the equipment AGE technicians are searching for is no longer being manufactured, which poses an impressive obstacle.

"If it can't be replicated we'll come up with ideas and ask the item manager and engineer to get it authorized. If it can be used we'll share that information with fellow units," Sergeant McQuain said.

Whether parts are being inspected, in need of repair or no longer exist, AGE technicians are on the scene with personnel that are apt to leap almost any hurdle placed before them.

"This shop has some of--if not the best - AGE technicians I've seen in my 28 years in the AGE world," Sergeant McQuain said.


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