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Aerospace ground equipment team breathes life into OIR aircraft

By By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing

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SOUTHWEST ASIA (August 28, 2015) – In the distance you can hear aircraft launching from the runway, leaving an echoing roar from the engines as it soars past. It’s a constant reminder that Airmen across the flightline are doing their part to generate sorties to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh.

Of the many maintenance sections operating across the long patch of concrete, there is one which every maintainer needs to keep that echoing roar a reality during Operation Inherent Resolve.

“Aerospace ground equipment is responsible for providing and maintaining items such as ground power units, air conditioning, hydraulics and munitions loading equipment to aircraft maintainers and other back-shops which support the aircraft,” said Senior Airman Dominique, 380th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, aerospace ground equipment mechanic. “Our goal is to maintain and deliver a successful product to the flightline so we can get power to and load bombs on the aircraft.”

Like blood vessels carrying oxygen throughout the body, aerospace ground equipment or AGE, provides critical assets to meet several unique mission requirements. Each piece of equipment varies in size and function, but is necessary to breathe life in to the aircraft.

Without items like hydraulic test stands, diesel generators, gas turbine generators, heaters, jacks, maintenance stands, nitrogen carts, and lights, much of the flightline would remain silent.

“It’s like an equation; you can’t solve an equation without certain parts of the problem,” said Sr. Airman Dominique. “If you don’t have AGE, you’ll cut out part of the equation. We wouldn’t be able to put missiles on targets. You can see what you’re doing to further the mission, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in that.”

Satisfaction doesn’t come without hard work and sacrifice. Every day the AGE mechanic’s roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to deliver equipment to six different airframes.

“There are days where there’s a lot of pressure on us to get equipment out to jets. Equipment breaks; you can prevent it to an extent, but things are going to break,” said Staff Sgt. Bobby, AGE day-shift lead. “Our days are full of working on different equipment. We may not catch a break, but we show up and get through it. My guys show a lot of perseverance, doing whatever they can to fix the equipment to get it back on the line.”

In addition to delivering timely products, every aircraft has its own unique aerospace ground equipment; it requires the mechanics to quickly and effectively learn the equipment inside-out to enable combat sorties.

“Each airframe needs a different set of tools and equipment. Fortunately, we have about a dozen different AGE flights from all over the Air Force on our team to help us understand how the equipment functions,” said SSgt. Bobby. “They know how certain types of equipment operate which makes them our subject matter experts on those assets. They’ve done a great job of getting the other mechanics trained on how to work on them.”

Understanding the equipment and training has been beneficial to all the mechanics, including SrA Dominique, who typically works on equipment for the B-52 Stratofortress.

“It can be difficult trying to learn about all the new equipment; there’s a lot of things I’ve never seen before or worked with,” Dominique said. “But it falls back on the principles of being a mechanic. You have to rely on that basic knowledge, once you catch on it becomes natural.”

As long as U.S. and Coalition forces continue airstrikes against ISIL, the AGE mechanics will continue servicing and providing the equipment which enables air power.

“Being here, seeing the jets fully loaded with munitions, it’s special to me knowing that I’m helping out the mission,” Dominique said. “I love my job. It’s something bigger than me. When you look at the big picture, why wouldn’t you want to serve your country?”

(Editor’s note: Due to safety and security reasons, last names were removed.)