Maintainers play big role protecting troops in contact

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Airmen maintaining the Ellsworth B-1B Lancer fleet allow aircrews to put bombs on target by servicing the aircraft's offensive systems around-the-clock. They have provided air superiority throughout the world for more than two decades.

Offensive avionics systems specialists are part of one of the six groups in the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's specialist section who are responsible for making sure each B-1 at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D. functions properly.

"I work on sniper pods, radars, GPS units and other communication systems," said Senior Airman Andrew Gacke, 28th AMXS offensive avionic systems technician. "Those systems are what make B-1s the threat that they are to our enemies."

Gacke said prior to every mission, he and his team regularly check several offensive avionics features to determine if repairs or adjustments are required.

"We load everything from secure communication to identification systems that allow crews to distinguish between friendly and unfriendly aircraft when they're flying," Gacke noted. "If we find out something isn't working right, we load up our troubleshooting program - which helps us find the precise location of the malfunction - and get started on fixing the issue."

He explained how the offensive systems he maintains are, and will always be, essential for the safety of ground forces deployed throughout the world.

"Aircrews are often asked to provide support to troops on the ground who are taking heavy fire," Gaeke said. "When that happens, they use their sniper pod to identify and monitor targets from high altitudes. Then they use their GPS to guide bombs to their targets."

Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Merrill, 28th AMXS offensive avionic systems technician, said it takes years to learn how to successfully diagnose and repair B-1 components.

"We get a lot of training before we're expected to take on all this responsibility," emphasized Merrill. "Between technical training, hands-on and other specialized training, we're expected to continue learning throughout our career."

Merrill said it's an honor to serve his country, adding that he is truly blessed to be part of an organization like the Air Force.

"It's been life-changing so far," Merrill added. "To be able to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night knowing that I did everything I could to contribute to our country's well-being -- the feeling is indescribable."

(Editor's Note: This feature story is part of the "On the Flightline with Maintainers" series that focuses on the Airmen who maintain B-1 bombers and the impact they have on the Air Force mission.)