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Aircraft maintainers keep mission flying high

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- "It never ends" are three words I have learned from a quarter century of service. Three words I have lived by in aircraft maintenance through 25 years, four commands and nine mission design series aircraft from fighters to heavies. "It never ends" is Airmen working hard every day, getting out there on the aircraft elbow deep in the J.O.B fixing jets to put iron in the air. It is our mission.

Have you ever wondered what it takes to get the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing's only weapons delivery platform, the B-1B Lancer, in the air and into the fight?

Some might say "it's the four afterburning engines that power the aircraft. We see them burning bright at night as the bomber takes to the air and we hear their thundering roar well into the distance. Air Force members know aircraft sortie generation includes not only flightline maintenance but also support from all agencies across the wing.

Teamwork from Airmen across the wing ensures every MDS on base meets its assigned air tasking order. I want to say a few words about the B-1 maintenance Airmen, who they are and what they do to generate B-1B sorties for the Grand Slam Wing.

Who are the B-1 mechanics?
The B-1 mechanics are assigned to the 37 AMU and comprised of Airmen across several AFSCs, including two civilians. All are the subject matter experts on the flight line and know firsthand what needs to be done to generate sorties. Their faces are marred from blowing sand and too much sun. Their uniforms are stained and have a unique smell from petroleum oils, lubricants and sealants used to maintain the aircraft. The work can be unforgiving and some B-1 mechanics find that out the hard way, resulting in trips to the clinic for busted knuckles and pulled muscles. The B-1 mechanics are professionals who do not hesitate to forego chow or work extended hours to accomplish their mission and get aircraft out of the chocks with four engines roaring, landing gear up and into the air.

What do B-1 mechanics do?
The mechanics' mission is to generate crew-ready aircraft through inspections, servicing and fixing unscheduled maintenance actions that are either pilot reported or ground-found write-ups. If the aircraft is not scheduled for flight, there are scheduled inspections and delayed discrepancies that are worked to ensure the aircraft's health is maintained to maximize fleet utilization. This allows combatant commanders to call upon the Lancer to provide close air support and precision munitions delivery in the forward operating location.

Now, you might say, "that doesn't sound too bad." On paper, it doesn't, but the B-1 is a unique aircraft with many complex systems and sub-systems. It has been flying over the skies of the AOR for close to a decade, and has proven its worth to ground Soldiers and high-value target planners time and time again. As with any mechanical system, over time it breaks hard and requires the tenacity and synergy of the mechanics to get this work horse back into the fight.

The B-1 mechanics may not get rich or famous during their careers. They have one of the most demanding and challenging jobs on the ramp. That is keeping the 379 AEW's B-1B Lancers ready for any and every mission.

Since the 37 AMU took over the Air Tasking Order in late July, the B-1B's performance indicator trend line has steadily increased from 32 percent to a high point of 89 percent this past month. There is no "I" in team, but there is an "I" in win and the 37 AMU B-1 mechanics have proven to be a winning team.