Blue Knights keep Ramstein in flight

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Holly Mansfield
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
At a moment's notice, Airmen of the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron provide combat-ready C-130J Super Hercules, designated visitor aircraft and equipment.

More than 240 Airmen in the squadron work to ensure aircraft are ready to complete nearly 930 missions and 2,230 sorties a year, covering the European Command, Central Command and African Command mission taskings.

"We maintain USAFE's only Tactical Airlift Fleet," said Master Sgt. Charles McCollum, 86th AMXS assistant maintenance superintendent. "We service, maintain and repair the aircraft at home station as well as all off station missions with our Flying Crew Chief Program. Last year, we had [more than 7,820] flight hours. We are very busy getting the aircraft ready to fly out and support the mission."

Making sure each component of the aircraft is working properly is essential to the mission being completed. Airmen in the squadron must know how to properly repair the different parts of the aircraft otherwise an aircraft will be unable to take off.

"The different areas that we work on are guidance and control, hydraulics, communications and navigation, electrical and environmental, electronic warfare, engine and airframe," said McCollum. "Issues to anyone of these systems could ground the aircraft preventing the C-130Js from supporting EUCOM, AFRICOM and CENTOM missions."

Between working nine-hour shifts to complete a 24-hour duty day, supporting three commands, and ensuring the 14 C-130J Super Hercules are mission ready, the squadron makes sure each Airman has support on and off the flightline.

"We get a lot of help from the other sections if we need it and we are always ready to help them if they are low manned," said Staff Sgt. Phillip Shroyer, 86th AMXS special air mission flying crew chief. "We are all part of the same squadron so we always look out for one another."

Shroyer is a part of the designated visitor airlift section of the 86th AMXS. Within this section, the Airmen are hand-picked to be part of a select group of flying crew chiefs for the Boeing C-40B Clipper. These Airmen go with the aircraft on each mission to make sure that any mishaps are taken care of.

"I used to work on the C-130J for three years before I came over to this section," said Shroyer. "I wasn't sure what this program was until someone told me and asked if I wanted to do it. We turned in my package and they looked at my enlisted performance report to see if I lined up for this position. We now actually do an interview for this position, we will get three or four people, interview them and then select who gets to come over."

With such a high profile position these Airmen make sure the sole U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Force Africa C-40B aircraft is functioning at all times.

"This aircraft provides designated visitor airlift support for the White House, Headquarters Air Force, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and USAFE-AFAFRICA commanders," said Shroyer. "We primarily fly the Gen. Philip M. Breedlove Commander, USEUCOM and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe. We are flying crew chiefs, which means that we travel with the aircraft and perform and coordinate all off-station maintenance."

We are also unique from the other maintenance sections in 86th AMXS because we do not have specialist troops like hydraulics, engines, electronics, communication and navigation, Shroyer continued. We are qualified to work on all aspects of the aircraft, and are the "jack of all trades" when it comes to making repairs off station. We are extremely high visibility because of the designated visitors and missions we fly, and must maintain the highest level of professionalism at all times.

Using the work ethic expected from every Airman in the 86th AMXS, they contribute to the overall success of the squadron.

"Our plane is gone about 20 days out of the month," said Shroyer. "We have seven people in our section, so we rotate two people at a time for that aircraft. I'll probably go on two missions each month."

The Airmen of the squadron are trained to be technical experts on their aircraft. Whether it's fixing an engine on a C-130J or ensuring designated visitor airlifts the Airmen amaze their supervisors every day with their ability to perform their duties correctly and accurately, according to McCollum.

Leading the way as U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa tactical airlift, the 86th AMXS Blue Knights are using training, airman-to-airman support and quality work ethics to get aircraft in flight and prepared to complete the mission.