Getting better with AGE

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stefan Alvarez
  • 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

The world of aircraft maintenance is critical to the Air Force’s ability to generate air dominance. One particular group of maintainers can be overlooked among the many different maintenance career fields.

Tyndall’s 325th Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment Airmen are responsible for various tasks that keep jets lethal and operational. These Airmen ensure the current and future F-35A Lightning II aircraft assigned to the installation are ready to fly, fight and win.

Despite AGE not working directly on aircraft, they directly support the crew chief’s and ground maintenance’s success.

“We are definitely the behind-the-scenes shop that help make the magic happen,” said Kharrat. “AGE is like the dark horse of maintenance. Whenever equipment fails on the flightline we either go out there to fix it or it gets brought back here. At the end of the day AGE has to do what they can behind the scenes and sometimes on scene make sure that the crew chiefs can do their job.”

AGE is a component to the Air Force’s flying mission that ensures both the aircraft and maintainers have what they need to execute the mission.

“We have scheduled inspections we need to do every month,” said Airman 1st Class Jake Milam, 325th MXS AGE apprentice. “We maintain and inspect everything from generators, bomb loading equipment, and even a crane. When the crew chiefs need light to work on jets at night, we bring them out. If munitions Airmen need a bomb loader to arm a jet, we give it to them. There’s a lot of equipment that maintenance may need and don’t have out on the line, and it’s our job to provide it for them”

As Tyndall’s AGE unit helps facilitate the wing’s transition from the F-22 Raptor to the F-35A Lightning II, they are still on their A-game and meeting all of their goals.  

“We haven’t missed any monthly inspections since I got here earlier this year,” said Kharrat. “As we’re getting in more and more equipment for the F-35, we’re making sure that it’s all serviceable and people know how to use it and inspect it. Hydraulic stands, power supplies, lifts, all things that are specific to the F-35 that is replacing our inventory of F-22 equipment.

AGE is responsible for ensuring that any specialized equipment or tools needed to perform maintenance on aircraft is in working order and ready for use.

“Our equipment has different inspection and maintenance intervals from as little as 30 days all the way out to a year,” said Senior Airman Malek Kharrat, 325th MXS AGE journeyman. “Thirty day inspections are quick and easy, just inspecting all the components and making sure everything is serviceable. 6 month and 1 year inspections are more in depth. Making sure things are lubricated, tires are good, engine oil and refrigerant is good, filters are replaced, no leaks, cracks, a whole gamut of things fall under our wheelhouse.”

With an estimated 70 jets expected to call Tyndall home, Kharrat is one of the few individuals in his shop with the knowledge to get the rest of his team up to speed.

“When I got here, I was like, ‘Oh, here we go again,’” said Kharrat. “I came from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska after they switched to the F-35, so now that I’m here I get to go through the process of switching gears and helping make sure everyone is trained on the new F-35 equipment now that Tyndall is experiencing the same thing.”

Kharrat feels confident in his own skills and the skills of his fellow AGE Airmen even with the pressure to sink or swim.

“We have a really good groove going here within the shop,” Kharrat concluded. “We’re doing everything very strategically, making sure everything is going at the same pace and using the ‘Slow is smooth and smooth is fast’ approach. Having that prior experience helping build this program right off the bat has been made our lives a lot easier.”

Despite the challenges of mission transition, the Airmen at the AGE shop continue to provide the maintenance support necessary to ensure aircraft readiness and contribute to the success of the F-35 mission at Tyndall.