SWANTON, Ohio - Maintenance is a critical component in keeping aircraft flight ready. For every hour an aircraft spends flying, it spends dozens of hours being inspected, prepped and worked on to ensure it is fully operational.
Airmen with the 180th Fighter Wing maintenance group are responsible for performing maintenance work on hundreds of millions of dollars of equipment. From the F-16 Fighting Falcons that pilots at the 180th Fighter Wing fly, to the diesel engines, bomb lifts and hundreds of other pieces of equipment used to keep aircraft flight ready.
To ensure that the 180FW is able to maintain optimal readiness and effectiveness even in adverse conditions, the maintenance group operated 2 full days in Mission-Oriented Protective Posture, or MOPP gear. The exercise, conducted May 19-20, 2018, simulated operating in a chemical weapons attack environment.
"We are working hard, sweating and just doing our jobs in the gear," said Chief Master Sgt. Michael Bratton, superintendent of the 180FW maintenance operations flight. "If we operate and train in this environment it will be second nature when we have to do it while deployed."
While deployed, Airmen often operate in austere conditions and must be prepared to continue to effectively operate during a chemical weapons attack, despite additional challenges.
"Navigating around the jet is a little trickier when wearing bulky gear," said Senior Airman Shawna Bucher, crew chief with the 180FW maintenance group. "It is already dangerous and you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times."
MOPP gear is a multi-piece suit that consists of boots, gloves, pants, a coat and a gas mask.
"I am have been very impressed with the performance of our Airmen," said Bratton. "Despite the challenges they have faced, things have gone very smoothly."
The mission of the Air Force is to fly, fight and win.
"Part of flying fighting and winning is operating in a pretty nasty environment," said Bratton.
According to Master Sgt. Jim Raabe, assistant superintendent of aerospace ground equipment, the 180FW has received comments and inspections stating that we have some of the best maintained equipment in the fleet.
"Our Airmen are dedicated and perform very well," said Bratton. "They work hard and are some of the best in the fleet."
To recognize the hard work of the maintainers across the wing, the 180FW celebrates National Aviation Maintenance Technician Day each year on May 24, which honors aviation mechanics across the country.
In September 2007, the United States House of Representatives passed Resolution 444 honoring Charles Edward Taylor, regarded as the father of aviation maintenance, and recognizing the essential role of aviation maintenance technicians in ensuring the safety and security of civil and military aircraft.
"Maintenance is everything," said Packard. "It is the most hands on, direct way of keeping the jets in the air."