AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar –
The resonating roar of an F-22 Raptor or the sky-ripping sound of an A-10C Thunderbolt II minigun ignites visions of air superiority. Though, amidst the awe-inspiring might of these multi-million dollar aircraft, lies an unsung hero: the diligent ground equipment Airmen who work behind the scenes.
Aerospace ground equipment (AGE) is one of the first building blocks making up the pyramid aimed at the air domain and the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron (EMXS) Airmen at Al Udeid Air Base (AUAB), Qatar, form this essential building block for Central Command’s area of responsibility (AOR).
The AGE team is responsible for maintaining more than 350 pieces of equipment ranging from hydraulic maintenance stands to jet engine generators that provide power to aircraft on the flight line. Aircraft maintainers and crew chiefs rely on these assets every day to sustain the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing’s fleet to include the KC-135 Stratotanker and C-17 Globemaster III, or even transient aircraft like the KC-46A Pegasus.
“It’s the strength of an AGE maintainer to remain flexible,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brandon Huff, 379th EMXS AGE craftsman. “Inspections one day, heavy maintenance the next, AGE touches all aircraft and misses none. With our capabilities, not only can we power older generation aircraft like the KC-135 with newer equipment built in the late 2010s, but we can extend the lifespan of Vietnam War-era equipment to work on new aircraft such as the KC-46.”
At AUAB, the in-flight refuel capabilities enable other aircraft to conduct security in the AOR without needing to land. With every piece of equipment the AGE Airmen provide, their hardworking hours directly contribute to the mission overhead.
“AGE is critical to the execution of our tanker mission at AUAB especially due to hot weather operations,” said Maj. Matthew Woods, 912th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron assistant director of operations. “Air conditioning carts maintained and provided by AGE allow our crews to perform pre-flight measures in extremely high temperatures. Because the crews are able to be in the jet with a cooler temperature, they are able to be more flexible with dynamic taskings that may require ground delays.”
Certified on jet engines, air conditioning, high purity nitrogen and more, AGE Airmen are multi-capable and ready to solve problems in an unpredictable environment, protecting the longevity of the fleet.
“Air conditioning carts allow the KC-135 to operate electronic upgraded variants in the desert by cooling the circuit breaker panels, minimizing maintenance issues,” Woods said. “AGE is also crucial to our operations by providing units that supply ground power to the aircraft in lieu of using the aircraft's auxiliary power unit (APU). Minimizing the wear and tear on the APUs allows us to increase the lifespan of a critical system.”
Not only does AGE enable air power for U.S. aircraft, but it also extends its reach to coalition forces.
“We had a French KC-135 out there for a while, and we provided our AGE to them as well,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Marc Rose, 379th EMXS AGE maintenance journeyman. “We let them use our generator carts, our universal maintenance stands, hydraulic carts … anything they needed to service their aircraft as well.”
Recognizing the interdependence of air and ground support, Rose further underscored the integral nature of their work, stating, "There's no air support without ground support. It all works together; we're just one link in that chain. Without us, the chain is broken."
These words serve as a powerful reminder that the seamless synergy between air and ground operations is essential for the success of any mission.