SHAW AIR FORCE BASE S.C. --
The newly reorganized 55th Fighter Generation Squadron, or “Shooters”, broke their own maintenance non-delivery record of 1757 sorties on July 23.
MND’s are classified as a sortie that was cancelled due to maintenance not being able to deliver an aircraft to a pilot. The record counts how many successful sorties the 55th FGS can provide for the 55th Fighter Squadron in a row.
“A lot goes into the process because it takes a whole unit to produce one sortie,” said Tech Sgt. Daniel Rockdaschel, 55th FGS noncommissioned officer in charge of avionics. “Weapons, crew chiefs, and specialists like electrical and environmental, engines and avionics all have a part to play in getting jets ready.”
One of three F-16 Viper squadrons stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, the Shooters execute an average of 90 sorties per week with about 27 aircraft to provide 24-hour coverage and support the training requirements of 55th FS pilots so they can execute the mission.
“We formulate a signed contract where we say that we will give X amount of support so you can fly X amount of times and if we don’t provide that support we agreed to, it’s a MND,” said Master Sgt. Steven Wyatt, 55th FGS lead production superintendent.
Staff Sgt. Andrew Scribner, 55th FGS electrical and environmental shift lead, said training is one of the main factors in how they have achieved so much, the other factor being caring about people.
“Part of my job is to work for my Airmen, they don’t work for me,” said Wyatt. “We didn’t get this far into this streak by adding more jets to the schedule. We schedule what we fly and we fly what we schedule and doing that effectively allows our airmen to not work the weekends, to not work 12-hour nights and to go home after a standard eight or nine-hour day.”
During the launch process, teams of maintainers from five different career fields stand by ready to respond to any issue the jets have prior to takeoff. After the jets fly their mission and return to base, they are regenerated for the next scheduled sortie.
“Without the efficiency of production putting the puzzle together correctly, it would never come out right and we would be working weekends, we would be working 12’s and you grind people into the ground that way,” said Scribner.
Maskell emphasized that the 55th FGS maintainers are a crucial part of 20th Fighter Wing mission success.
“First and foremost, this achievement goes to the best maintainers out of Air Combat Command which are here in the 55th FGS,” said Master Sgt. Cody Maskell, 55th FGS productions superintendent. “They’re the only reason we have aircraft available. The leadership here is focused on quality; not just quality of maintenance but quality of life as well, which we’ve struck a really good balance here.”
Not only does the FGS provide a balanced environment for its Airmen but it ensures a sense of trust and security for the 55th FS pilots.
“The trust we have between the fighter pilots and the FGS is that I know when I’m ready to step, they have a jet ready for me,” said Maj. Scott Mayo, 55th FS flight commander. “All of that builds trust, rapport and camaraderie between the ops side and the maintenance side, I’ve never seen that in any other squadron. On the back half of the sortie, they trust us to take care of the jets and bring them back in one piece.”
Mayo said he has been here for three years, and whether being at Shaw or downrange with the 55th FGS when they were still the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the maintainers have never failed him. Because of that trust and respect, morale is higher, especially on the operations side.
“We have a super relationship with our ops counterparts, our communication and coordination is the best I’ve ever been a part of,” said Wyatt. “That really allows us to be honest and say whether we can or can’t realistically produce something. Being able to say no sometimes is what leads to us scheduling effectively. Knowing those limitations is what sets our airmen up for success. I can write a schedule all day long, but without the Airmen out there on the line, it means nothing.”
The process that goes into making a sortie lays on the shoulders of every Airman, everyone has a part to play in making the jets fly.
“I'm proud, I'm proud of what our Airmen do day-in and day-out. I'm proud of the Shooters,” said Maj. Stephanie July, 55th FGS commander. “Going forward, this means we continue to do what we do best and that’s generate sorties.”