On the flightline with maintainers - Offensive avionics systems Airmen

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Hrair H. Palyan
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
(Editor's Note: This feature story is part of the "On the Flightline with Maintainers" series that focuses on the Airmen who maintain B-1 bombers and the impact they have on the Air Force mission.)

Ellsworth B-1 bombers have provided the U.S. with ground and air superiority for more than two decades - an accomplishment that wouldn't be possible if not for Airmen who work timelessly around-the-clock to service and repair the base's bomber fleet.

Offensive avionics systems specialists are part of one of the six groups in the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's specialist section who are responsible for making sure each B-1 at Ellsworth functions properly.

Senior Airman Andrew Gacke, 28th AMXS offensive avionics systems technician, said it's his job is to take care of the many systems onboard the B-1 that help aircrews put bombs on target.

"I work on sniper pods, radars, GPS units and other communication systems," Gacke said. "Those systems are what make B-1s the threat that they are to our enemies."

Gacke said prior to every mission, he and his team load and troubleshoot several offensive avionic features to determine if any repairs or adjustments need to be made.

"We load everything from secure communication to identification systems that allow crews to distinguish between friendly and unfriendly aircraft when they're flying," Gacke noted. "If we find out something isn't working right, we load up our troubleshooting program - which helps us find the precise location of the malfunction - and get started on fixing the issue."

He explained how the offensive systems he maintains are, and will always be, essential for the safety of ground focuses in Southwest Asia.

"Our systems play a huge role in helping to protect ground troops in Southwest Asia," said Gacke. "Aircrews are often asked to provide support to troops on the ground who are taking heavy fire. When that happens, they use their sniper pod to identify and monitor targets from high altitudes. Then they use their GPS to guide bombs to their targets."

Airman 1st Class Jeffrey Merrill, 28th AMXS offensive avionics systems technician, said it takes years to learn how to successfully diagnose and repair B-1 components.

"We get a lot of training before we're expected to take on all this responsibility," emphasized Merrill. "Between technical training, hands-on and other specialized training, we're expected to continue learning throughout our career."

Merrill said it's an honor to serve his country, adding that he is truly blessed to be part of an organization as rich in history as the Air Force.

"It's been life changing so far," Merrill added. "To be able to wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night knowing that I did everything I could to contribute to our country's well-being - the feeling is indescribable."