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July Commander's Corner

Lt. Col. Chris Gamble

Portrait of U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Gamble, the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, June 14, 2019. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Caycee Watson)

MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --

Once again, I sit and wonder what to write about in my Commanders Article for July and it finally hit me on Sunday morning of June drill. Just when we thought we could enjoy a little downtime after a great TDY to Sweden, Maintenance Group and Logistics Readiness personnel must stay behind because two different aircraft were unable to fly due to maintenance issues. By the time this article is published in the SCANG news, we hope to have everyone and everything home. Here is a brief summary of events and a general look at the professionals we have at McEntire JNGB.  

The first aircraft had a damaged wing that was discovered by Tech. Sgt. James “Willie” Williams during a walk around. After digging in, we discovered an actuator was broken and had cracked the wing mounts. When this happens, we must submit a form to the engineer out in Utah to request disposition. Since we were in a foreign country without F-16 support, we put in a request for a one-time flight to either a base in Germany or back to McEntire JNGB. We knew that was a long shot for either but we needed to provide options. At that moment we started to realize just how much coordination had to happen and many shop leads started stepping up making a list of equipment that would be needed to make this occur. They compared the list of items needed to the list of tools and equipment that we brought because we do not travel with equipment needed to change wings on a TDY. The items not in country were given to the home station shops to work with TMO to get shipped. The replacement wing was located in Korea so we had that ordered and shipped to McEntire JNGB because we didn’t want to lose out on the wing while waiting for the engineers to make a decision. The paperwork came back that we must replace the wing in place.

The second aircraft was hit by lightning during a routine flight and landed back on the base in Sweden. Avionics and Safety worked together to investigate and assess the damage, determine what items needed to be replaced and estimated the cost in order to repair the aircraft. Avionics worked the last weekend so it could get a confidence flight before the flight back to McEntire JNGB on Wednesday. Fortunately, the tanker support slipped 24 hours to Thursday which allowed Avionics to work on it a little longer. During the taxi on the confidence flight another part was discovered to be bad and without the part on hand, it had to be left in Sweden with the first aircraft. 

The organization and effort that has to take place to get specialty tools, equipment and parts to a foreign location is a daunting task, but Lt. Col. Brian Doyle and Senior Master Sgt. Charles “Eric” Bowen worked diligently making it look easy to those looking in on the outside, which I am sure it was not. For this to happen, they had to coordinate with the National Guard Bureau, United States Air Force in Europe and home station to figure up the costs associated with shipping everything and the per diem needed to keep people back, not to mention keeping in mind the six-hour time difference ahead of eastern time. 

What I want to stress is that the amount of work and effort that went into trying to make it possible for the aircraft to return on time was extraordinary. Everyone involved in the process did their very best to make this happen, just like you would expect from our Airmen. They are true professionals and it is obvious we had the right people working it. I didn’t even get into all the parts that were swapped between the two aircraft, the numerous times the locals switched the hangar that they would allow us to use, countless hours of manpower and extended duty days of so many people involved. In regards to the organizations back at McEntire JNGB, they continued to support and do a first-class job in trying to make this as simple as possible. 

I want to thank you all for the great work and for making the SCANG not only an outstanding organization to be part of, but the best unit in the Air National Guard and the United States Air Force. Lastly, please take full advantage of no drill in July to spend time with your family and friends and thank them for their support because without them, none of this is possible.

Semper Primus!