3rd EMS earns Air Force maintenance effectiveness award
Airman 1st Class Derek Johnson, 3rd Equipment Maintenance Squadron, ignites his torch to begin the process of repairing air-ground equipment. 3rd EMS won the Dept. of the Air Force Maintenance Effectiveness Award for medium aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jack Sanders)
Posted 3/24/2011 Updated 3/24/2011
by David Bedard
3/24/2011 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The Department of the Air Force recently announced 3rd Equipment Maintenance Squadron, 3rd Maintenance Group, 3rd Wing as the winner of the Maintenance Effectiveness Award, Category II: Medium Aircraft Maintenance.
Chief Master Sgt. Rodney Miller, 3rd EMS superintendent, said he credits the unit's diverse roles in supporting a composite wing in a subarctic environment.
The superintendent also cites the squadron's culture of innovation which is driven by maintainers on the floor and is supported by leaders at the squadron, group and wing levels.
"It's the sheer size and scope of what the individuals are doing out there, the number of airframes they're touching, the different types of airframes they're touching, the associated units throughout the world, so they have a huge amount of impact," Miller said.
"I think the biggest thing that sets us apart is how the flights, the sections and the individuals proactively manage their processes."
Anthony Hannula, Aerospace Ground Equipment Flight chief, said the squadron convened an Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century committee last year.
Section chiefs, civilians and Airmen identified processes they thought required too much time or manpower, resulting in 32 initiatives during the award period.
"The technicians on the floor are identifying ways we can improve lagging indicators, what they need to better accomplish their job, how they're going to save manning ... money ... and downtime on equipment or aircraft," Hannula said. "So the ideas are coming from the troops on the floor."
One such idea involved an air cart deficiency, which prevented auxiliary power units from consistently starting F-22 Raptor fighters.
"We worked with Boeing, and we devised a $50 fix to recirculate the oxygen that was being released from the exhaust," Hannula explained.
"We recaptured that and we brought an oxygen line going from the exhaust to the intake so we could recirculate that pure oxygen, and that allowed us to maintain the oxygen content at (the required) 20.9 percent or higher."
The solution eliminated F-22 null starts in 3rd Wing and was disseminated as a best practice throughout the Combat Air Force.
Hannula said the AGE Flight devised a way to save the Air Force millions of dollars through the refurbishment of ground equipment.
"They look at (defense reutilization management organizations) Air Force wide and they find AGE equipment that's been turned in unserviceable or condemned," Hannula said.
"They'll order it free of charge and they'll bring it back, bench check it and completely refurbish that unit and we'll put it back in service or send it to another base in (Pacific Air Forces) that has a requirement for it.
"If it's a unit that we can't totally repair, we'll pull items off of it and rebuild them and put them back in the base supply system, and that gives all the other bases visibility of that asset if they have a requirement for it."
Hannula said the AGE Flight isn't the only organization counted on by other PACAF installations. The Fabrication Flight's Metal Technology Shop manufactured 526 aircraft parts during the award period.
"They are contacted by Kadena (Air Base, Japan), Osan (Air Base, Republic of Korea) and several other bases in (PACAF) to manufacture parts for them, so we send people TDY to Hickam (Air Force Base, Hawaii) to manufacture all of their special tooling for the F-22s that they bedded down," Hannula said. "Based on their knowledge and their advanced technology and innovation, we're like the one-stop shop for the command as far as manufacturing parts."
Miller said he was especially proud of the efforts of Maintenance Flight's crash recovery section, which recovered a 517th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III lost July 28, 2010, and a 525th Fighter Squadron F-22 lost Nov. 16, 2010.
"They're the best in the Air Force, obviously, based upon local demands we placed upon them with the two aircraft incidents," Miller said. "They're the ones who go out and recover the aircraft. They safe it. They do all of the flight controls, all of the rigging. So basically, they're crew chiefs with a lot more training."
Miller said because the C-17 was the first total loss of the Globemaster III, the Maintenance Flight established procedures for recovering the aircraft type, cleaning up the wreckage in 23 days. The F-22 was recovered in subzero temperatures at a remote location in rugged terrain.
Despite having the lowest manning in CAF, Miller said the 3rd EMS Low Observable Composite Repair Facility is the best of its type and is responsible for maintaining the F-22's capability to remain invisible to enemy radar and other detection systems.
The superintendent said the LOCRF's secret to success stems from their attitude that LO is not merely an aircraft component.
"You've got to treat LO as a system, and you have to schedule the aircraft down and proactively work it," Miller said. "Because if you don't have good LO, you don't have an aircraft. That aircraft might be able to fly, but it can't complete its mission."
Airmen in the Maintenance Flight are responsible for performing scheduled maintenance which is beyond the daily maintenance performed by aircraft crew chiefs.
"We have to tear that aircraft apart and we have to inspect it internally and externally," he said.
Miller said the Munitions Flight is the largest in PACAF and maintained a $160 million missile stockpile at a 98 percent serviceability rate.
During the award period, the flight underwent a Department of Defense Explosive Safety Board inspection with a 100 percent review and no findings.
The Armament Flight accomplished over 1,400 inspections on F-22 weapons release equipment valued at over $31 million. They established a F-22 "Golden Gun" which enabled AMXS weapons technicians to save 48 hours of aircraft downtime per replacement.
"Armament's flawless maintenance practices were integral to aircrew training and 3rd Wing securing a 100 percent weapons release rate," Miller said.
Miller said Squadron de-icers service an average of 1,200 aircraft annually, and must be familiar with procedures to de-ice a large variety of military and civilian aircraft.
"(De-icing) is really critical for aircraft sortie generation," he said. "Because, if they're not de-iced, they're not getting off the ground."
Miller said the entire squadron has to be familiar with all military airframes, because JBER is a major hub between the United States and Asia. Last week, the organization was required to repair a C-5 Galaxy which isn't a part of 3rd Wing's inventory.
Miller said the honors of the squadron winning the award was fully expected by him and 3rd EMS command.
During the award period, Miller said the flight led the F-22 fleet in eight out of 10 performance indicators.
Additionally, the flight led CAF in five out of 10 maintenance performance metrics for the F-15 Eagle, which were recently transferred out of JBER.
"It's no surprise to me," he said. "It's validation to the individuals out there in the sections and flightline that they are the best. They already knew it."
The superintendent said, despite the achievement, the Airmen and civilians of 3rd EMS will not make the mistake of becoming complacent.
"It doesn't matter what you did yesterday," Miller warned. "It's what you're doing today and tomorrow."
Miller and Hannula said the squadron will next compete for the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Award.