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Maintenance superintendent reflects on desert ‘experience’

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFRC) -- I recently returned from my assigned tour in the desert. Though this is not my first trip TDY, I still left with a lot of apprehension about what we were going to face. Things such as: 

Working conditions at the deployed location 

Interfacing with my active duty and Guard counterparts 

Long working hours 

Work/rest cycles. 

How would the aircraft hold up under extreme desert conditions such as heat, sand and assault take-offs and landings? 

Skill level and knowledge of those deploying with me, not only from Colorado, but Niagara Falls and Willow Grove as well. 

There were a multitude of others, but it took very little time before I realized how short-sighted I was and how blessed I was about to become with the people who went with me. Without question, the maintenance people who deployed with me were the best of the very best. Each day they proved themselves time and time again through unbearable heat, humidity and a heavy workload. They never complained nor asked for any special treatment. They came in everyday, gave their very best and expected the very best out of each other. You could stand any 50 maintenance people in a “line-up” and pick out our people from the “line-up.” I would not have given up one 3-skill level person I had with me for anyone else from any other place. Simply put – they were outstanding! 

I gained a healthy respect for our aircrews as well. When the maintenance workload was extremely high, our aircrews became part of the “cure” with making the aircraft operate more efficiently. Our aircrews “locked arms” with us and made it all happen. If you did not know what aircrew were flying the aircraft, the condition of the aircraft when they returned home told the story. Our aircrews were a tremendous help to us under heavy workload and adverse weather conditions. 

We made the active duty gain a healthy respect for our aircraft and our maintenance/flying capabilities. Our Mission Effectiveness Rating was 98.2% efficient. That rating is hardly, if ever, achieved at home station and to have it happen under the desert conditions, was a strong statement of our ability in the eyes of our active duty counterparts. It was not by accident that our aircraft did so well. The ability to fly the hours we did and accomplish what we did is a direct reflection upon the quality “built into” our aircraft long before leaving from home station. We “reaped” the benefits of a high quality product produced by our inspection section and the day-to-day maintenance of specialty shops. The aircraft did so well because of the “upfront” quality built in at home station that allowed us to just maintain “status-quo” there. 

I also got a chance to meet some wonderful young people who represent the best that America has to offer. What I thought I knew about them, I did not. What my impression of them was, I found after talking with them and getting to know them better, not to be true. I made some terrific friends and learned so much about people. I came away from the desert a better man, leader and chief.