Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar --
The 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron supplies hundreds of tires a month to various aircraft. As a 24-hour operation supporting nine airframes for about 13 military installations, it is imperative that maintainers have every resource to do their jobs.
However, due to the rotational nature of deployment cycles, many of the machines had not worked for months since being delivered and others had not been in use for years.
"We are the number one Air Force in the world and this is unacceptable," said Senior Master Sgt. John Barr, a former maintenance flight superintendent of the 379th EMXS. "To be the best, we need to have 100 percent functionality. That means all equipment will be up and running. Don't settle for subpar, put in the work and make it better."
Last year, an improvement initiative begun by Barr ensured all primary equipment was operational within 10 months, according to the unit.
"When I arrived a large part of the process improvement had already been underway," said Tech. Sgt. Malachi Woodlee, maintenance flight noncommissioned officer in charge. "I began fine tuning the loose ends. We were still waiting on items ordered for the small parts washer and took over the safety project on the large wheel washer."
One of the most impactful improvements involved restoring a large washer for wheel assembly parts.
"Before the washer was fixed, a tire would have to be lifted, placed on a table and taken apart by hand," said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Porta, 379th EMXS maintenance flight superintendent. "Then the wheel would have to be manually picked up again and put in the washer. This caused the technicians to work harder and extended the time it took to complete a service request."
Although major progress has already been made, the unit continues to enhance their work environment. A recent improvement included installation of a bump stopper for the washer grate. The team noticed when the washing cycle ended and the grate was pulled out to remove the parts, there was nothing stopping the grate from rolling and creating large puddles of water on the floor.
"We noticed the problem and everyone began making suggestions on how it could be fixed," said Master Sgt. Aaron Hulse, aero repair section chief. "We came up with an idea and asked the metal shop to create it for us."
Over the past year, coupled with equipment restoration efforts, other process improvements were implemented as well.
The work space was reorganized, placing commonly-used tools in the most convenient and operational locations with an expectation of increased efficiency and productivity.
The squadron repairs an average of 170 to 180 wheels a month for a variety of aircraft. In May, the shop supplied more than 200.
"I'm super thankful to the rotation before us for getting everything working," said Airman 1st Class Loren Griffiths, wheel and tire technician. "We will continue to do whatever we can to make the work environment better for those that follow us."
According to Barr, it wasn't one person but a multitude of personnel from many organizations across the installation that banded together to implement these corrections and create a positive, productive and professional work environment.