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Grand Forks AFB maintenance squadron enable success of Global Hawk mission

Three uniformed military members kneel down shoulder-to-shoulder in front of portable computers they have placed on the ground.

Senior Airman Esther Kim, left, Staff Sgt. Austin Taylor, center, and Airman Raymond Harrison, assigned to the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron as avionics specialists, work together to perform electrical preflight checks on an RQ-4 Global Hawk at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 22, 2020. Avionics specialists work alongside crew chiefs with the 319 AMXS to refuel a Global Hawk and perform regular maintenance prior to every flight the aircraft makes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

A uniformed military member stands with his back to the camera as he looks on to the back of a small unmanned aircraft.

Airman Joseph Ebright, a crew chief assigned to the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, stands behind an RQ-4 Global Hawk during a weight check on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 22, 2020. The aircraft is weighed before and after it is refueled as part of regular preflight maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

A uniformed military member on the right-hand side of the frame looks on as his coworker in a protective smock inspects the turbine of an aircraft with a flashlight.

Crew chiefs assigned to the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron perform an intake and exhaust inspection on an RQ-4 Global Hawk at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 22, 2020. Crew chiefs are certified annually on their ability to perform certain tasks, to include towing the aircraft, running the engine and performing intake and exhaust inspections. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

A military-uniformed man and woman walk through a large aircraft hangar next to each other as they smile in conversation.

Staff Sgt. Austin Taylor, left, and Senior Airman Esther Kim, assigned to the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron as avionics specialists, prepare to perform preflight checks on an RQ-4 Global Hawk at Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 22, 2020. The computers are used to enter flight codes for the unmanned aircraft, which relies on the uploaded information and remote pilots for a successful flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

The side of a small unmanned aircraft is shown on the left-hand side of the frame, as three uniformed military members stand near it with a laptop in front of them.

Airmen assigned to the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work together to perform regular preflight maintenance for an RQ-4 Global Hawk on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 22, 2020. The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft with an integrated sensor suite that provides global all-weather, day or night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

A man in military is shown center-frame leaning down to place chocks beneath an aircraft wheel.

Airman 1st Class Trenton Binkley, crew chief assigned to the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, places chocks beneath an RQ-4 Global Hawk on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 22, 2020. The aircraft, with a wingspan of 130.9 feet and weighing just under 15,000 pounds, performs Grand Forks AFB’s primary mission of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

A small unmanned aircraft is shown in center frame in front o f an open hangar, with its wingspan shown in entirety from left to right of the picture.

An RQ-4 Global Hawk awaits preflight maintenance on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 22, 2020, The 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron works around the clock to support the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission at the 319th Reconnaissance Wing, ensuring the RQ-4 is in the sky when needed to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

A uniformed military member walks across the frame with a large neon yellow wheeled fire extinguisher in tow.

Airman 1st Class Bryant Vides-Perlera, crew chief assigned to the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, moves a wheeled fire extinguisher after an RQ-4 Global Hawk preflight maintenance check on Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., Sept. 22, 2020. Crew chief responsibilities include assisting with the launch and recovery of an aircraft, diagnosing and solving maintenance issues, and performing pre-, thru- and post flight inspections. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Elora J. McCutcheon)

GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --

The RQ-4 Global Hawk, a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, is one of the most important technological assets here.

The aircraft, used heavily by the Department of Defense to provide a broad spectrum of ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces in worldwide peacetime, contingency and wartime operations, relies on the maintenance provided by Airmen in the 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

“It’s a proud feeling knowing our Airmen are directly responsible for ensuring the success of an aircraft’s takeoff and recovery,” said Senior Master Sgt. Nathan Bouchard, 319th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent. “These guys are out here day and night, year-round, through all sorts of inclement weather conditions in order to get the job done.”

Within the 319 AMXS are a variety of jobs, each playing a particular role in getting a Global Hawk into the air, but crew chiefs and avionics specialists work up-close with the aircraft to assist with launch and recovery, diagnose and solve maintenance issues, and perform pre-, thru- and post flight inspections.

“My favorite part of the job is the sense of accomplishment in knowing by the end of the day, our work is what keeps the Global Hawk flying,” said Senior Airman D’Angelo Perkins, crew chief assigned to the 319 AMXS. “It’s a huge team effort that takes a lot of problem-solving skills and communication.”

The Global Hawk has been deployed operationally to support overseas contingency operations since November 2001, and has made huge strides since its introduction to the U.S. Air Force fleet: in 2014, an RQ-4 Block 40 flew for 34.3 hours, setting the endurance record for longest unrefueled flight.

“The aircraft is pretty impressive,” Perkins said. “The fact that so many people rely on its capabilities is sometimes intimidating, but it’s also a motivating factor that keeps us working hard.”

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