SOUTHWEST ASIA --
When questioned many 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron Airmen exclaim, “We are the ones with the green reflector belts. That’s us, and we are the Jokers.”
This sentiment resonates through every Airman who works on the C-17 Globemaster III and the C-5M Super Galaxy airframes at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia.
As a tenant unit under the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, they report to Air Mobility Command through the 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing, located in Ramstien, Germany, instead of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, and receive their mission taskings from the 618th Air Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center). The 618th AOC (TACC) plans, schedules and directs a fleet of nearly 1,300 mobility aircraft in support of combat delivery and strategic airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation operations around the world.
The 5th EAMS is responsible for the aerial port of debarkation and maintains staged C-17 aircraft, as well as providing en route maintenance and support for transient C-17 and C-5 aircraft flying in and out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Southwest Asia. This mission requires them to manage the APOD at one location and sustain two separate airframes from two geographically separate airfields.
“We have two different sets of airframe maintainers in one squadron so when we talk about cross utilization training and being a team, we also take in to account more than one mission design series, and more than one maintenance team,” said 1st Lt. Cheyenne Rolon, 5th EAMS Officer In Charge, deployed from 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Travis Air Force Base, California.
Cross utilization, or training airman with specific qualifications to perform general maintenance functions, has allowed the 5th EAMS to sustain the busiest C-17 and C-5 airfields in the AOR. This has also allowed them to perform maintenance on aircraft that would normally require mobilizing a maintenance recovery team from another base. Recently the 5th EAMS performed three C-17 engine changes over a two month period, saving the Air Force time and money.
“Before we deploy we get cut to help out; especially on inspections, that’s sort of a big thing out here” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Boggs, an integrated flight and control systems technician (guidance and control systems), deployed from the 305th AMXS, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. “With our semi-prepared runway operations capabilities, we have to help, there are only so many people out here to do every mission.”
Semi-prepared runways are rugged and can be anything from unpaved roads to large grass fields with no maintenance capabilities. In order to ensure mission success maintainers are required to specially secure and inspect the underbelly of the C-17 and prepare any extruding surfaces on the aircraft to mitigate damages from rocks, dirt, and debris as the aircraft lands. This requirement takes extra time and isn’t for routine missions.
“If I didn’t do my part, if I didn’t do a proper inspection, if I didn’t find something that’s wrong with the aircraft, if there was an error with the aircraft …,” Boggs said. “Then we have a 200 million dollar plus aircraft sitting at a forward deployed location and with ISIS hanging out around there, that’s probably not the best for the U.S.“
Lt. Col. Clinton Varty, 5th EAMS commander, agrees with Boggs sentiment of every Airmen playing a part in the success of his unit.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be the commander of the 5th EAMS Jokers,” said Varty. “The Airmen that are stationed and deployed here do an amazing job generating airpower at our two locations in a very challenging environment. They come together as “Jokers”, put their heads down, work hard, and then look up and their tour is over. They are an incredibly hard working team that exceeds our expectation’s every day; it’s an honor to be the commander of such great Airmen.”