WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --
The 445th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and maintenance elements within the wing are tasked with supporting and maintaining the mechanical operation of the nine C-17 Globemaster III aircraft assigned to the 445th Airlift Wing.
The C-17, a powerhouse capable of carrying more than 170,000 ponds of cargo, is a key asset in global military transportation operations, and the aircraft maintenance squadron works together with other maintainers to ensure the wing commander’s ability to direct this aircraft in support of the Air Force mission.
AMXS performs pre-flight inspections and repairs to ensure the aircraft can launch on-time and fly tasked missions. In the simplest terms, the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron readies and launches 445th C-17s, day-in and day-out.
“Our mission is to get things to where they need to go,” said Master Sgt. Rodney McElfresh, a propulsion shop chief with the 445th AMXS. “That can include people, supplies or equipment. And it is important because the overall Air Force mission requires aircraft to be in the air and able to get the job done. Our job ties into everything else, and we are a big part of the team.”
For every flight hour the C-17 is operational, it can take up to 20 hours of maintenance to keep the aircraft in peak operational condition. This means that the reliability and safety of the aircraft demands constant attention from maintenance crews and is a priority for Airmen within the career field. Throughout recent years, the 445th has maintained one of the highest operational tempos of any Air Force Reserve Command unit that flies C-17s.
“I’ve been doing this for 17 years, and I have been stationed at five different bases,” said McElfresh. “The experiences that I have been able to have in the Air Force are amazing, and it is exciting to be a part of a team that is this active.
During the nationwide struggle with COVID-19, these 445th airmen were able to maintain their personal safety as well as continuing the operational tempo.
“Our Airmen never cease to amaze me! COVID didn’t slow them down. In fact, the total flying hours in Fiscal Year 2020 were about 700 flying hours more than originally planned, and we doubled our contingency lines going overseas to support the AOR [Area of Responsibility],” said Lt. Col. Karen Gharst, 445th AMXS commander.
Maintenance personnel understand how necessary their job is for the continued success of the mission, and airmen at all levels and in all situations help keep the aircraft of the 445th Airlift Wing functional in the air and diligently cared for on the ground. It is a big responsibility, but you will have a difficult time finding an Airman within the maintenance field that is not up for the challenge.
“We fly a lot, so it is a priority for us to keep our planes in the air,” said Airman Ethan Stone, an avionics technician with the 445th AMXS. “This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was younger. I come from a military family, so for me service has always been important. What we do is a visible extension of that.”
From providing immediate support on the flight line to inspecting aircraft components, 445th maintenance personnel spend their time, often behind the scenes, keeping the mission going.
“Leadership is proud of what the maintainers have accomplished during the pandemic. In the February and March timeframe, the 445th supported several high-priority COVID missions that were planned with less than 24-hour notice. Ops and maintenance worked seamlessly together to ensure flawless execution. Despite the added missions, the social-distancing and all of the new aircraft sanitization requirements, the maintainers have executed the sorties with perfection and without cancelling local training”.
“My hope is that when COVID is a distant memory, the Airmen will recall a time when we answered the nation’s call and supported the curb of the pandemic,” Gharst added.
The 445th maintainers continue to adapt to these requirements and demonstrate their proficiency and the value of their service daily; every time one of our C-17s takes to the skies.