MARTINSBURG, W.Va. --
Despite the fact that it is still technically in conversion to the C-17 aircraft mission, the 167th Airlift Wing continues to function more and more as a fully operational C-17 wing.
From local training missions to guard lifts and channel missions, the 167th has steadily increased its operations tempo over the past several months.
With this increased tempo comes increased pressure on the wing’s Maintenance Group to keep planes ready to fly and ensure that all mission needs are met.
For Maj. Jason Harris, the 167th Airlift Wing’s aircraft maintenance squadron (AMXS) commander, the recent increase in the wing’s operations tempo is seen as business as usual for the wings maintainers.
“We have the absolute best mechanics in the Air Force,” Harris said. “We see our office as being the jet and it is our responsibility to keep them flying.”
While more missions may increase the complexity of ensuring planes are available for flying, the processes that have been developed over the past few years allow the wing a level of continuity when dealing with scheduling, Harris said.
“We are becoming a more finely oiled machine the more time we have with the aircraft,” Harris said. “We have a great process and sound regulations that we are able to combine with our experience with the C-5 and the high level of technical aptitude that comes with that experience.”
While he is extremely proud of the Airmen he commands, Harris recognizes how important coordination between AMXS and the wing’s Operations Squadron is to the success of the wing.
“We have an excellent relationship with Ops,” Harris said. “That relationship really stands out to other wings and helps us to coordinate our needs with each other.”
Maintainers meet with the operators each week to determine the requirements for upcoming missions. Then the production superintendent assigns specific aircraft to each mission taking a number of things into consideration such as regularly scheduled maintenance and inspections, manpower, whether or not the jet is equipped for long-range missions or armed with counter measures.
Some things such as a major break to an aircraft or a hold-up in the part supply chain can’t be predicted but the possibility of these happening must also be taking into consideration when forecasting aircraft.
“We have a plan A, plan B and plan C,” said Master Sgt. Devin Paskewich, a flight chief for the crew chief section.
Scheduling and maintaining aircraft for upcoming missions is a constant strategic planning process.
“Our pro-super doesn’t say no to a mission,” said Paskewich, referring to Senior Master Sgt. Randy Gray, who carries the responsibility of assigning the wing’s aircraft to its missions. “And we always find a way to make it happen,” added Paskewich.
The wing has brought in two C-17’s from the active duty fleet to keep pace with the operations tempo and maintainers often work evening and weekend shifts to prepare the jets for their next mission.
“We have some really hard-working people and we have some smart and talented mechanics,” said Paskewich. “Good maintainers take pride in knowing we can do something that no one thought could be done.”