Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rain or shine: A-10 maintainers keep mission flying



U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Michael Mimdziak, 476 Maintenance Squadron crew chief, prepares Capt. Samuel Chipman, 23rd Operation Support Squadron pilot for takeoff at Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Oct. 27, 2011. Crew chiefs maintain the aircraft to ensure proper function before, during and after flight. Without their expertise, pilots wouldn’t have functioning equipment while conducting missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Olivia Dominique) Hi-res

Note: Pictured should be A-10C 80-0172 (according to the serial number on the ejection seat). Click for the hi-res shot to get a closer look on Capt. Samuel Chipman's very cool flight suite patch.

by Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel
23rd Wing Public Affairs

10/28/2011 - MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- At every hour of the day or night, rain or shine, Moody's A-10C Thunderbolt II maintainers work on everything from loose screws to structural cracks. Working 12-hour shifts and weekends are nothing new for Moody maintainers; keeping the Flying Tigers and rescue squadrons at maximum operational capacity is no easy task.

Despite the challenges of working maintenance at Moody, maintainers take pride in their work and complete the mission.

"I am proud to be a part of the 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Matthew Campbell, 75th Aircraft Maintenance Unit aircraft electrical and environmental craftsman. "I have always wanted to work on A-10s and Moody was absolutely my top choice. I'm just proud to be a part of such a legendary unit.

"You get a lot of pride from launching and recovering aircraft," he added. "It's hard work, but you gain pride and camaraderie with fellow maintainers."

The A-10 was the first U.S. Air Force aircraft designed solely to provide close air support and first arrived at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. in 1975. One of the challenges faced by Moody maintainers is maintaining older A-10s.

"One of the challenges we face with older aircraft is the changes in technology," said Senior Master Sgt. Ronald Clark, 23rd Maintenance Group avionics manager. "Back when these aircraft came out everything was analog but now it's digital. It can be a struggle integrating the new parts and evolving the aircraft."

Despite the challenges, the 75th AMU was awarded the Meritorious Unit Award while deployed to Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, as the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing. From Sept. 2010 to March 2011 they flew a total of 11,486.5 combat hours.

"They are good maintainers and leaders, from the senior NCOs to the Airmen," said Clark. "That unit exudes pride. They know what they need to do and how to do it."

Moody is home to the Flying Tigers, the World War II volunteer group commanded by Lt. Gen. Claire Lee Chennault which became known for their P-40 Warhawks with shark's teeth painted on the nose. Today they fly A-10s and can be seen conducting missions worldwide with the same shark-teeth nose art.

"I'm responsible for all the electronics that help pilots get accurate bombs on target," said Senior Airman Jonathan Zurek, 75th AMU avionics technician. "The best part is taking pride in your own maintenance. Anyone can replace a part, but putting a higher level of craftsmanship in your work is something to be proud of."

However, maintaining the aircraft of the Flying Tigers has its challenges.

"We are very busy, and undermanned so there are a lot of hours spent working away from your family," said Zurek. "To finish the job, we sort our priorities at the start of the day to determine what needs to be done first."

Whether it's the P-40s of the WWII Flying Tigers or the A-10s of today's warriors, dedicated and skilled maintainers are needed to keep these aircraft in flying condition.

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