TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
For the average person, their mechanical incline may end at “lefty-loose-y, righty-tight-y” but the professionals of the 325th Maintenance Squadron make all things aircraft their business.
The 325th MXS conducts intermediate-level maintenance to support pilot training for the F-22 Raptor squadron, manages and maintains a munitions stockpile valued at more than $275 million, and provides avionics support for 114 line-replaceable units. Additionally, the squadron performs periodic inspections and structural repair for 325th Fighter Wing-assigned aircraft and conducts engine maintenance and hush house test cell operations for Pratt and Whitney F-100 and F-119 engines.
In this squadron, the duties of maintenance are allocated among seven sections: maintenance, fabrication, accessories, aerospace ground equipment, armament, propulsions and ammunitions.
These sections have their own specialties, obligations, checks, proposes and sometimes even their own subsections to guarantee that the air assets of Tyndall AFB continue to train and project unrivaled combat air power.
Coining the motto, “Danger is no stranger to an AGE ranger,” or DINSTAAR, the professionals of the aerospace ground equipment Flight maintain and inspect all the equipment that is used to prepare the F-22 Raptor for flight. They also support the 82nd Aerial Target Squadron, 2nd Fighter Training Squadron, 53rd Weapon Evaluation Group and Silver Flag.
“There is no airpower without ground power,” said 2nd Lt. Brandon Toothaker, 325th MXS AGE flight commander. “On any given day we will have more than 30 Airmen performing maintenance and inspections while two Airmen are out on the flight line picking up and delivering the equipment. If there was no AGE flight, the flightline would not get the support equipment needed to fly jets.”
Toothaker touted his Airmen on their ability to adapt and handle any situation maintenance related.
“What’s unique about AGE flight is that we are a jack of all trades,” Toothaker said. “Our Airmen are trained to maintain, inspect and deliver all aerospace ground units. From knowledge on hydraulic, pneumatic, turbine, diesel and electrical these skill sets are unique because any of our Airmen can do any of the jobs whether in our shop or on the flightline on any day.”
Not to be outdone by the AGE flight with its diversity, the accessories flight is comprised of two separate Air Force specialty codes, aircrew egress systems and aircraft fuel systems repair, both aid in sustaining the infrastructure of aircraft on Tyndall.
“Our fuel systems Airmen perform functionality checks and inspect, aircraft fuel systems, that include, fuel tanks, in-flight refueling receptacle systems and related components,” said Master Sgt. Andrew Wood, 325th MXS accessories flight chief. “The egress section maintains aircraft egress systems, components and trainers, equipment such as aircraft ejection seats, extraction and escape systems, egress components of jettisonable canopies, and explosive components of escape hatches.”
Although the main component of the accessories flight is at Tyndall AFB, on any given day, their reach and responsibilities can go far beyond the gates.
“Our maintainers work closely with the aircraft maintenance units to coordinate extensive and time-consuming repairs,” Wood said. “Sometimes a single repair will involve various specialties from across the 325th Maintenance Group. It is not uncommon for our technicians to be in constant communication with other F-22 units, Lockheed Martin F-22 field service representatives and engineers to isolate complex malfunctions.”
The accessories flight keeps the F-22’s systems operating smoothly. Without a reliable fuel system, the engines will starve. Without egress, the pilot has no way out of a disabled aircraft. Mission success for the accessories flight is first time fixes – no repeats,” Wood said.
The next flight is part of what separates one of the most powerful warfighting systems the world has ever seen from commercial aircraft – the munitions flight.
“Our mission is to provide unrivaled munitions support for the wing and tenant units,” said Capt. Matthew Larson, 325th MXS munitions flight commander. “This includes accountability, testing, security and build-up of munitions assets for two fighter squadrons, the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group, Silver Flag, Navy Dive Center and Air Force Civil Engineer Center.”
Keeping with what seems to be a common theme of having multiple sections doing a variety of things, the munitions flight’s 10 shops further divide into three sections: systems, materiel and productions.
“The systems section is responsible for the control of all munitions related activities while also overseeing the training of personnel and preparation for mobility taskings,” Larson said. “The materiel section handles the sourcing, serviceability and storage of the entire stockpile valued at $107 million. Finally, the production section handles the inspection, testing, assembly and delivery of munitions assets to support all aircrew training and real world requirements.”
If there is a requirement for something to be shot, dropped or blown up, we’re involved,” Larson said.
Although the munitions flight’s mission is to work with things that are intended to be destructive, personnel of this section keep safety at the forefront of their daily duties.
“Mission success is the safe use of all munitions assets along with maintaining 100-percent accountability and security,” Larson said. “Our personal standards extend beyond that to provide timely and professional client support through safe and reliable weapons performance. The munitions community of the armed forces is a close-knit family with a long history and pride that spans generations. The professionalism that I witness every single day pays tribute to that legacy and affirms our right to call ourselves ammo troops and to wear the ordnance insignia,” Larson added.
Aiding and augmenting the mission of the munitions flight is the armament flight, which works on the weapon systems that are housed in aircraft.
“The armament Airmen are responsible for performing off-equipment weapons system maintenance for two F-22 squadrons, weapons load training and 20mm ammunition loading capabilities for the 53rd WEG,” said Master Sgt. Gregory S. Goodro 325th MXS armament flight chief. “Our whole job as armament technicians is to make sure weapon systems work correctly every time. Without armament, the F-22 would become an air-to-air combat surveillance aircraft. The aircraft would not be able to drop bombs, fire the 20mm gun system or fly with fuel tanks.”
Aircraft would have no means of getting off the ground without the propulsion flight.
“The mission of propulsion flight is to provide war-ready engines primed for combat deployment by performing safe, reliable and effective intermediate level maintenance on Tyndall’s 139 F119 engines that power the F-22 Raptor,” said Senior Master Sgt. Brian Wurster, 325th MXS propulsion flight chief.
Wurster described the daily duties of his section.
“A typical day begins with a production meeting to review maintenance actions from the previous day and to formulate a plan of action for the current day,” Wurster said.
The support section supplies the tools, equipment and parts necessary to repair the F119 engine. The JEIM Section, together with a Pratt & Whitney contractor team, tear-down, inspect, repair, and build-up the engine to prepare it for operational testing. The test cell section configures the engine with diagnostic equipment to facilitate the testing process and then operates it on the test stand ensuring that it meets specifications, Wurster explained.
The propulsion flight serves as a vital component of the 325th MXS in regards to F-22 assets. They halt the need to send F-22 engines elsewhere when being serviced.
“Without the propulsion flight in place to perform intermediate maintenance, each engine removed from the F-22 for repair would have to be shipped to another F-22 location with that capability,” Wurster said. “This would increase the overall repair costs due to an additional transportation requirement and could result in potential aircraft ‘holes’ while waiting for a serviceable spare engine to return to Tyndall. Without power for the F-22, the Raptor cannot fly, fight and win.”
The next section is the largest flight, not only within the 325th MXS, but on Tyndall AFB. The fabrication flight is comprised of four subsections: low observable, nondestructive inspection, aircraft structural maintenance and metals technology.
“Fabrication flight is the biggest flight at Tyndall,” said 1st Lt. Sarah Raser, fabrication flight commander. “We handle the low observable coating on the aircraft. Without it, the jet would be detected by enemy radar.”
The non-destructive inspection uses methods of inspecting parts and aircrafts through non-invasive inspections, such as x-rays, ultrasonic waves and dye penetrants. The section is very unique to the maintenance career field. Raser said.
Raser elaborated on the remaining sections of fabrication flight.
“The aircraft structural maintenance section manages structural repair, corrosion control, inspection, damage evaluation, repair, manufacture, and modification of metallic, composite, fiberglass, plastic components, and related hardware associated with aircraft,” Raser said.
Finally, the metals technology section does things similarly to the aircraft structural maintenance section with the added duty of performing heat treating, cleans, welds and related hardware associated with aircraft, Raser added.
The maintenance flight rounds out the squadron, and the support they provide is also critical to accomplishing the mission.
“The mission of the maintenance flight is to perform programmed maintenance package inspections, time changes on parts, completing hourly and calendar intervals inspections, replacing faulty and damaged parts, performing operational checks on the aircraft hydraulic and electrical systems and conducting engine run operational checks,” said Master Sgt. Michael Larson, 325th MXS maintenance flight chief. “This aids the squadron’s overall mission to provide specialized support in maintaining five diverse flying units.”
Without the maintenance flight, the burden of the hourly inspections and the extended down-time would have to be engulfed by the aircraft maintenance units. Reducing their manning and cutting the amount of time to perform maintenance on their other aircraft, Larson said.
Whether the duty of the day is running engines, fabricating parts, loading ammo or repairing aircraft, the professionals of the 325th MXS will ensure projection of combat airpower by advancing and sustaining resources and infrastructure of aircraft on Tyndall AFB.