BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.-- --
High-altitude reconnaissance from 60,000 feet by the U-2 Dragon Lady and RQ-4 Global Hawk is the focus and mission of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing. As high as they can fly, their mission begins on the ground, and that starts with the 9th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment flight.
“AGE is the master of all trades,” said Master Sgt. Nathaniel Spurlock, 9th MXS AGE flight chief. “We pretty much maintain every piece of equipment that helps launch the aircraft. “We work on anything from diesel engines, jet engines, hydraulic systems, electronics, heating, and air conditioning.”
The flight is responsible for inspecting, maintaining, and delivering more than 500 pieces of ground support equipment to requesting units.
“Pretty much anything you see out on the flightline that is not an aircraft belongs to AGE,” said Spurlock. “This includes anything from ground generators for power, ground lighting kits to light up the flightline, air compressors to air up the tires, heaters to heat the personnel, and oxygen tanks to supply oxygen to the pilots.”
Spurlock believes the most important piece of equipment they are responsible for is the dash-86 diesel generator.
“I like to say it is the backbone of the flightline without it nothing happens,” said Spurlock. “It powers the aircraft allowing them to start it and troubleshoot it.”
According to Tech Sgt. Arik Milam, 9th MXS AGE craftsman, the AGE flight provides unique equipment and services to Beale’s reconnaissance platforms. For U-2 maintenance and operations, AGE provides pilots and maintainers with a variety of non-powered U-2 specific equipment. Whenever a Global Hawk sortie is flown, the unit powers and air conditions the mission control elements needed to fly.
“All sorties begin and end with AGE,” said Milam. “They can’t get in the aircraft without us, they can’t get off the ground without us, and they can’t get out of the jet without us.”
Milam has been on the U-2 AGE his entire career and has been around the world supporting 9th RW flying asset and he believes the impact his shop has cannot be understated.
“I love the job,” said Milam. ”I get a lot of personal fulfillment when I hear the noise of a U-2 flying and I know AGE helped make that happen.”