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Airmen save the day for Turkey’s Rodeo team

Tech. Sgt. Trey Woodward (right), 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, performs one final check of Turkey's C-130E before its first flight at the Air Mobility Command Rodeo 2007. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Nick Przybyciel)

Tech. Sgt. Trey Woodward (right), 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, performs one final check of Turkey's C-130E before its first flight at the Air Mobility Command Rodeo 2007. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt. Nick Przybyciel)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- When Turkey's C-130H airplane broke down just before the 2007 Air Mobility Command  Rodeo competition began, American Airmen banded together to make the impossible happen. When all was said and done, a maintenance job that normally takes weeks to accomplish was performed in five days, all in the spirit of Rodeo competition. 

Trouble began for the Turkish team immediately upon arrival at McChord. Noticing some loose metal shavings during the post-flight inspection, Turkish maintainers troubleshot their jet. What they found was devastating. One of the largest parts of the engine, the reduction gear box, was broken. Since the gear box is the mechanism that turns the propellers, the team was grounded, or so they thought. 

Enter Capt. Eric Peterson, a pilot from the 10th Airlift Squadron here and one of the Turkish team's hosts. "Without him, we would not be flying in the competition," said Capt. Umit Saydan, a navigator with the Turkish team. Since McChord is a C-17 Globemaster III base, there aren't any C-130 parts in stock. So Captain Peterson immediately went to work trying to find a new reduction gear box, all the necessary ancillary parts and tools needed for the job. 

While all this was going on, the Turkish team was starting to feel cursed. Every international team is allowed a familiarization flight in the days leading up to the competition. Since Turkey's airplane was grounded, the team was offered a ride with a local C-17 crew. But that also fell through -- again owing to maintenance issues. 

"We thought we needed a medicine man," Captain Saydan joked. 

The Turkish aircrew finally got their familiarization flight when their plane was fixed a day before Rodeo kicked off. Much of this was thanks to the efforts of Tech. Sgt. Tre Woodward, who was one of two maintenance liaisons from the 446th Airlift Wing who worked grueling hours with the Turkish team to replace the gear box. 

"I've got new respect for these guys," Sergeant Woodward said. "They're hard workers --persistent and professional." 

It was also apparent that the bond forged between the maintainers went beyond the professional level. 

"They've treated me like family," he said. "We eat every meal together -- no one ever eats alone. We've exchanged e-mails, and we plan to stay in contact when the competition is over."