'Arm' shop: Works seven days a week for A-10 to bring 'thunder'

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ceaira Tinsley
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, Moody's aircraft are prepared to takeoff and go anywhere to meet the needs of the Air Force. Flying operations never stop, so sacrifices have to be made by maintainers to ensure the aircraft are always ready.

For four Airmen from the 23d Equipment Maintenance Squadron's armament flight, the choice was simple; sacrificing their weekends and volunteering to work as a dedicated weekend duty crew.

"The armament shop is a large piece of an even larger puzzle that allows the A-10C [Thunderbolt II] to bring the 'thunder' whenever called upon," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Matt Jenkins, 23d EMS armament flight chief. "We keep the 30mm [GAU-8/A] gatling gun firing, and the bomb racks dropping bombs. Without us, the A-10 would be useless, so we created this shift to complete our A-10 phase inspections on time."

The armament flight is responsible for maintaining all of the aircraft weapons systems components when they're removed from the aircraft including the gun systems, alternate mission equipment and bomb racks. They are also responsible for tracking all of the A-10 phase inspections. "We have a permanent weekend duty crew that works Friday thru Monday to provide continuous coverage for the aircraft including those going through phase inspections," said Jenkins. "The weekend duty crew's main focus is phase. They don't have the distractions of the day-to-day armament scheduled maintenance so we are able to get the phase inspections done on time."

This shift was created to eliminate the need for everyone to rotate weekends and provide some stability to the phase process which can take between six to eight days to complete. The armament flight dedicated weekend duty crew work eight-hour days on Mondays and Fridays and 12-hour days on Saturdays and Sundays to complete phase I and phase II inspections. These inspections are used to detect damages or malfunctions on the different weapons systems on the aircraft.

"It's a nice shift," said Senior Airman Adam Michaud, 23d EMS combat armament system team crew member. "Since we're the only ones that come in on the weekends, we have the ability to look ahead and plan out 24 hours of work instead of taking everything eight hours at a time. It's really nice not to have to [brief the next shift], I can come in the next day and pick up exactly where I left off at."

To keep up with the demands of Moody's high operations tempo, the armament shop constantly performs A-10 phase inspections. Almost simultaneously, as one A-10's phase inspection is completed, another A-10 phase inspection begins; creating a never ending cycle for the armament shop.

"Every time there is an aircraft in [going through a phase inspection], the time [we have] to accomplish the phase never stops," said Michaud. "[This shift] makes it a lot smoother as far as scheduled maintenance goes, by not having to pressure the guys on Fridays to get everything done.

"We've worked a number of phase inspections so far and it's worked pretty well for us," added Michaud. "Being able to come in on the weekends and have a full crew to work helps us get things done in a more precise manner."

The added weekend duty provides consistency for the 23d EMS to complete their phase inspections and alleviates the pressures of getting everything done throughout the week.

Before the dedicated crew, weekend shifts still occurred during phase inspections, but as extra shifts, which added stress to Airmen and their families, said Staff Sgt. Chad Ufholz, 23d EMS weapons armament system craftsman. But now, during these two days a lot of work gets done because the flight is able to focus solely on the aircraft without getting stopped in the middle of doing a job.

On the rare occasion that the armament flight isn't doing a phase inspection, the added shift still has mission benefits.

"When we don't have an aircraft in phase, our weekend crew continues with our normally-scheduled equipment maintenance," said Jenkins. "It's a win-win situation that provides stability for all of our personnel."

The new weekend crew appears to be the ideal sacrifice for us to make to keep Moody's aging fleet of A-10's ready at a moment's notice, Jenkins added.