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Quick return: Reservists help speed up C-5 maintenance process.

Traditionally, whenever C-5 Galaxies are sent to the Air Force's repair facility for programmed depot maintenance, Reserve units can expect their aircraft to be out of commission for up to 265 days. The extensive maintenance process takes about 220 days, while an isochronal inspection, which is usually required once the aircraft return home from the depot, keeps the C-5s out of commission another 30 to 45 days.

In an effort to return C-5s to duty faster, as well as save money, Air Mobility Command and the Air Force Reserve have entered into an agreement that will combine the maintenance process and inspections. The plan calls for Reservists, working with members of the 19th Maintenance Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., site of the Air Force's C-5 maintenance depot, to perform ISO inspections on AFRC aircraft while they are going through programmed depot maintenance.

Actually, this isn't a new concept for the 19th MXS. The squadron has been doing the inspections on AMC C-5s while at the depot for many years. Recently, 22 full-time Reservists were hired to expand the program to include Reserve C-5s. The Reservists are active Guard and Reserve members who are administratively assigned to the 413th Flight Test Group at Robins.

"We've integrated these folks," said Maj. Jon Claunch, 19th MXS commander. "The Reserve component came on board 110 percent. The bottom line is we have the same mission: enhancing 'stratlift capability.' Air Mobility Command relies heavily on the total force, and it makes sense to integrate them and bring AFRC aircraft through here."

AFRC has two C-5 units: the 433rd Airlift Wing at Lackland AFB, Texas, and the 439th AW at Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass. Every 1,825 days or five years, aircraft undergo programmed depot maintenance. While at the depot, an ISO inspection--a scheduled, recurring maintenance activity--often comes due. Before the aircraft can be returned to service, this inspection has to be performed. Traditionally, the home units have been responsible for performing these inspections when their aircraft return from the depot facility.

"Once a plane got back to home station, it would take 30 to 45 days before the unit could fly it," said Master Sgt. Bruce McGee, 19th MXS production superintendent. "If we do the inspection here, the plane can go back to home station and return to regular service within five to seven days."

"What this means is we are getting the aircraft back into the channel at least 25 days sooner," Major Claunch said.

He explained what this means in terms of load-carrying capacity. If you have an aircraft, like the C-5, with a 260,000pound maximum load-carrying capacity and you fly it every day for 25 days, you would gain a 6,500,000-pound load value, the major said.

The 19th MXS traces its origins back to the early 1990s. At that time, the Air Force was having a similar problem--extended downtime after programmed depot maintenance--within its fleet of C-141s. The 19th was formed in 1993 to perform ISO inspections, as well as field-level repairs, on C-141s as they went through PDM at Robins AFB.

A similar unit was established in 1994 at Kelly AFB, Texas, home of the San Antonio Air Logistics Center, which was responsible for performing PDM on C-5s. When Kelly AFB closed, responsibility for depot maintenance work on the C-5s shifted to the Warner Robins ALC. At that time, work on the C-141 was tailing off as the Air Force was implementing its decision to retire that aircraft from the inventory. The 19th MXS simply shifted gears to switch to the different airframe. To date the unit has performed ISO inspections on 126 C-5s.

Adding Reservists to the fold is just the next step in this evolution.

"If you look at the Air Force mission overall, we're all fighting the same war," Sergeant McGee said. "When it comes down to it, whether its AFRC or AMC, it's all about getting the mission done."

Expanding the mission to include the Reserve means the 19th MXS will be responsible for 32 more planes. Both the 433rd AW and 439th have 16 C-5s.

In order to create the 22 AGR slots to handle the extra work load, Lackland and Westover had to give up 11 manning slots each.

"We are going to pay these units big dividends by having their aircraft mission ready," said Senior Master Sgt. Daniel Alaniz, C-5 ISO maintenance superintendent for the Reserve. "We will be getting the first AFRC C-5s in August from Westoven"

In the meantime, Reservists have been busy helping the 19th MXS work

on AMC aircraft. The extra bodies allowed the squadron to split into a second shift, which lessened everyone's work load.

"They've been enjoying the fruits of our labor," Sergeant Alaniz said, "but at the same time, we are focusing on sharpening our skills and staying proficient on our training."

"We all have the same goal in mind: sending the aircraft back to their home station with a quality product," said Master Sgt. William Ellis of the 19th MXS.

He admits that at first he and his active-duty co-workers had some doubts about adding AFRC aircraft and people.

"As a unit, we were skeptical about the additional work load and the Reserve providing us with properly trained folks to help with that work load," Sergeant Ellis said, "But the Reserve did its job of hiring the right folks and getting them here. It's been a team effort from day one."

One of the right folks the Reserve brought in was Tech. Sgt. Emonie Lewis, a crew chief. Sergeant Lewis not only works on C-5s but also serves as a training manager and teaches cardiopulmonary resuscitation and fitness.

"It's perfect," he said. "They are using my abilities to the max. Being a maintainer and being in training filled the squares for both the active duty and Reserve."

For Sergeant Lewis, being training manager for both active-duty and AGR troops isn't a problem.

"There are a few quirks to getting training, but it all works out," he said.

The sergeant said he believes his experience of being a former active-duty Airman, an air reserve technician, a traditional Reservist and now an AGR has prepared him well for this opportunity. It also gives him insight on how the active-duty perceives the Reservists and their role as part of the 19th's family.

"The active duty has a better respect for the Reserve," he said, "They see the expertise we bring from our past experiences with other organizations and how that can help us improve our processes."

One improvement the Reservists have already brought to the 19th MXS is the introduction of laptop computers on the flight line.

"We're in the process of implementing the paperless ISO concept," said Tech. Sgt. James Gulley, 19th MXS crew chief. "The wireless laptops will provide us all the TOs (technical orders) and allow us to do write-ups and order parts. Normally you would have to go back to the office and to supply, but now you can do it all in one spot on the job."

Once the Reserve C-5s begin arriving this month, the 19th MXS commander said his unit's approach to doing its job will not change.

"Our focus for this year is training to do things one way, making the process seamless and working the aircraft together, regardless of the (command) patch you're wearing or the color of the aircraft tail," he said.

(Sergeant Babin is assigned to the 926th Fighter Wing public affairs office, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, La. He wrote this story while on a temporary duty assignment to Robins AFB with Citizen Airman magazine.)
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Article Details
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Author:Babin, Chance C.
Publication:Citizen Airman
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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