by Tech. Sgt. Kent Kagarise
442nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
8/21/2012 - DAVIS-MONTHAN AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- When A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft from around the world arrived for Hawgsmoke, Aug. 14-18, 2012, the 917th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Barksdale AFB, La., was the only crew on the ground.
The 917th AMXS, a geographically separated unit of the 442nd Fighter Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., arrived Aug. 13 and used every means available to ensure the arriving A-10s and their crews would have all of their essential equipment for Hawgsmoke, located at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
"Most of the other crews didn't get here until after their jets landed," said Master Sgt. Joseph Duketz, 917th AMXS specialist flight chief. "I have to give a lot of kudos to the 924th AMXS here they gave us six crew chiefs and tools so we could get everything bedded down."
Duketz and his crew worked 12 hours Aug. 14 to have the A-10 parking spaces ready for the aircraft and crews who arrived the next day.
"The hardest part for us was that we didn't have our equipment so we did everything from begged, borrowed and all but stole to get it," Duketz said. "We've been out here a lot though so the Davis-Monthan people really helped us out."
Duketz said Hawgsmoke poses different challenges not usually encountered when planes are arriving at different times and are coming from a variety of places without their usual tools.
"We had to set up fire bottles as the jets were practically falling out of the sky to guarantee pilot safety," he said. "After we assisted them in their landing we went back to work on our planes."
Tech. Sgt. Travis Furlow, 917th AMXS weapons load crew chief, said success at Hawgsmoke is based on many variables.
"An Airman's knowledge and experience is exposed here. It's fast paced and you've got to learn on-the-fly," Furlow said. "If you can't adapt to different situations you're not going to enjoy a lot of success."
This is Furlow's second Hawgsmoke. His first was in 2004 at Alexandria, La.
"The weather here is so much better and we've got a smaller number of aircraft here," Furlow said. "In Alexandria we had about 70 as opposed to here where we have maybe 30."
Tech. Sgt. Bob Berg, 917th AMXS crew chief, has been in the Air Force for 27 years and spent most of his time working on KC-135 Stratotankers.
"This is my first time ever being at a Hawgsmoke and I'm fairly new to the A-10 community," Berg said. "When you are with the heavies you are part of a team that bares the responsibilities, here the crew chief bares the brunt of it. It's a different mindset."
Furlow said he feels a great deal of job satisfaction if the pilots are able to put their bombs on target.
"If he or she does that than we know we've done our job correctly," Furlow said.
The unit who wins Hawgsmoke has the honor of hosting it in two years. The planning process begins almost immediately following the awards banquet.
"It's a lot of work to win. It's even more work to coordinate the next one two years down the road," Furlow said. "Just transporting the equipment can be a logistical nightmare."
Furlow said there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment that surrounds winning.
"To say our pilots are the best, and know that we put them in that position well -- that's special."