AGE Airmen help keep C-17s young

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

When people think of maintenance in the U.S. Air Force, they often picture an Airman working directly on an aircraft. However, many jobs within the maintenance career field have different ways they contribute to the mission of keeping jets in the air.

The 62nd Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment Flight at McChord Field oversees all the equipment used to inspect, fix and maintain aircraft.

“The flightline cannot operate without our equipment,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Gonzales-Rivera, 62nd MXS AGE flight assistant noncommissioned officer in charge of inspection and repair. “Anywhere you see a plane; you’re going to see AGE.”

The 62nd MXS AGE flight consists of three sections: the maintenance shop; service, pick-up and delivery (SPUDS); and production and support.

“There’s a saying, ‘There’s no air power without ground power,’” said Senior Airman Zachary Stoehr, 62nd MXS AGE flight journeyman. “We maintain that ground power and support equipment, and make it possible to do the maintenance on the aircraft themselves.”

The AGE flight is in charge of more than 390 pieces of equipment worth $13.9 million, and all three sections contribute to their care and distribution. There are 44 total force individuals who work in the shop, to include active duty, reservists and civilians.

The maintenance shop, which is the largest section, focuses on preventative maintenance for equipment going to the flightline. The first step, depending on whether the unit is powered or non-powered, is to clean out the dirt, grease, grime or anything that accumulates over time. At a minimum, equipment is washed on a six or 12-month rotation.

Next, the Airmen inspect the equipment and make any fixes needed to keep the unit functional, so when it used by other maintenance Airmen, crew chiefs, or any other entity, it is safe and can perform its intended function. They service approximately 10-12 pieces of equipment a week.

“There’s always a good variety of things to work on and it’s not uncommon to see something you’ve never touched before, even years into the job,” Stoehr said. “You can be stumped and run into things you are not prepared for. The maintenance itself is my favorite part; I have always liked turning a wrench. It was something I knew I wanted to do in the Air Force and I like being able to troubleshoot.”

The second section, SPUDS, delivers equipment to aircraft or hangars when they are requested, from stands to inspect C-17 Globemaster III engines and flood lights that provide proper illumination, to heaters that increase cure times and tripod jacks to jack up aircraft. 

The SPUDS Airmen aren’t just delivery persons, however.

“They are flightline delivery drivers to an extent, but they can also troubleshoot and do fixes on the spot,” Gonzales-Rivera said. “If anyone on the flightline is having issues, they can go out there and correct those issues as needed.”

The final section in AGE is production and support, which oversees all the tools used by AGE Airmen to work on equipment. They are in charge of more than 7,000 tools and manage any test, measurement and diagnostic equipment. They also order hazardous material as needed, such as oils, lubricants and fuel.

To be an AGE Airmen, one has to go through 95 days of technical training and another year of on-the-job training once arriving at one’s first duty station.

“It’s a lot of training, but that is because there are so many different pieces of equipment we have to operate and maintain,” Gonzalez-Rivera said. “It’s important to be familiar with all the systems.

“The beauty about AGE is that you are not a specialist on one item,” he continued. “If you look on the flightline, you have an individual who only knows electrical systems. Here, we get to learn electrical, hydraulic, refrigerant systems, any other powered equipment and non-powered equipment. We’re kind of a jack-of-all-trades.”

AGE Airmen can see the direct impact they have on the mission as they watch their equipment being used to keep aircraft flying.

“I love working in AGE, especially on the flightline; you don’t know what to expect,” Gonzalez-Rivera said. “It’s always something different, and in my opinion, I feel like I contribute more out there because you actually see the planes take off. You see that end and it’s satisfying and rewarding.”

McChord C-17s would not be able to provide rapid global reach without the 62nd MXS AGE Airmen’s skills and expertise maintaining the equipment needed to keep green tails in the sky.