RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany --
Whether it’s through freezing rain or scorching heat, many Airmen work tirelessly to employ air power every day. More specifically, the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft electrical and environmental systems flight works diligently around the clock to ensure Ramstein’s air power is wired for success.
From cabin pressurization to engine control, E and E works to inspect, troubleshoot and maintain all C-130J Super Hercules’ systems touching down on Ramstein’s flightline.
“We get to be nerdy and technical enough to dig through a wiring diagram and play the most complicated game of connect the dots by chasing circuits down,” said Master Sgt. Ato Ellis, 86th AMXS command staff section chief, and E and E by trade. “We get greasy and dirty; we do the grunt work.”
Staff Sgt. Roderick Coffey, Jr., 86th AMXS aircraft E and E systems craftsman, agreed and said he enjoys the challenges he faces in his job.
“I always challenge myself to not pass anything on to the next shift. If I can fix all the problems that day with my shift, I feel great at the end of the day,” Coffey said.
Although they are a specialized career within the maintenance field, their work load is steadily busy and changes day-to-day.
“There are very few parts of the plane that we don’t touch and we aren’t responsible for,” Ellis said. “Because the aircraft has a lot of systems, it’s the nature of the job. We used to jokingly refer to the environmental portion of the job as ‘everything else.’”
The environmental portion includes items such as fire suppression, maintaining the oxygen converter, landing gear, and flight control.
“It’s really cool to me how everything functions and how to pressurize the plane so aircrew can fly at 35,000 feet,” said Airman 1st Class Luke Derry, 86th AMXS aircraft E and E systems apprentice. “I’ve always liked car mechanics but switching over to planes was a big jump. The most rewarding thing about that is getting planes out on time and having them take off when they’re supposed to.”
As rewarding as their work can be, it offers many obstacles such as major repairs on new problems.
“If it’s a system that doesn’t break often, we have to get back in the books, read up on the system again to see how it coincides with the problem,” Coffey said. “If new problems pop up every so often that no one has ever seen before, we have to start from scratch to fix what’s wrong.”
Referencing more than 100 technical orders for each repair or replacement to pass inspection is a large part of the job. It is essential for the Airmen to follow an outlined protocol perfectly to maintain job efficiency and safety.
Therefore, a minimum of two qualified Airmen must sign off grounded aircraft prior to it taking flight again.
The 86th AMXS Airmen remain a critical role in repairing the C-130Js and welcome the challenges it brings.
“It’s exciting to walk into work and see the Air Force mission happen,” Ellis said. “E and E is always going to be challenging and there’s always going to be someone that needs you. Most importantly, a handful of people bet their lives that you did your job right every time you do it; that’s always been exciting to me.”
Rain or shine, E and E Airmen continue to stay wired and challenge themselves on the ground to generate mobility in the air.