Reserve Citizen Airmen execute off-station readiness training

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shayna Hodge
  • 512th Airlift Wing

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. - With readiness at the forefront of their minds, more than 40 maintainers from the 512th Maintenance Group traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii, to complete annual tour training. 

The group, comprised of the 512th Maintenance Squadron and the 512th and 712th aircraft maintenance squadrons, spent two weeks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, honing their maintenance skills on C-17 Globemaster III and C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft.  

“The goal for our off-station annual tour was to give maintainers the opportunity to perform aircraft maintenance in a location with a higher operations tempo in order to increase proficiency in their (Air force Specialty Codes),” said Maj. Jason Lowrey, 512th MXS commander. 

Ranging in rank from senior airman to senior master sergeant and representing more than 10 AFSCs, the 512th MXG accomplished training, working alongside host units at JB PHH - the 735th Air Mobility Squadron, the 15th Maintenance Squadron and the 154th Wing of the Hawaii National Guard. 

On the flightline, 512th MXG members worked with the 735th AMS to repair C-5M Super Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. Other reservists executed sheet metal and commander support staff operations with the15th MXS and the 154th HIANG, respectively. 

During training, maintainers working on the flightline took the lead on repairing drop-down mission aircraft. These are unscheduled aircraft that had to land at Hickam, which serves an en route base where military and civilian airframes land. 

“All we needed to know was where the tools were, and we were on the job said,” said Chief Master Sgt. Omari Colas, the 512th AMXS Senior Enlisted Leader. 

Colas explained the 512th MXG’s efforts enabled the 735th AMS to focus on repairing civilian aircraft, allowing for more work to get done in a shorter period of time.  

Staff Sgt. Vernon Miller, a 512th AMXS crew chief, said operating at Hickam was a great experience. 

“Working with new Airmen, following different practices and procedures and working under different leadership helped us pick up different skills,” said Miller. “And, it’s made me realize that operating out of the norm isn’t always a bad thing.”  

Off of the flightline, 512th MXG’s commander support staff received CPR training from the HIANG; and, according to Tech. Sgt. Antonio Neal, 512th MXG’s CSS noncommissioned officer in charge, his team and the 154th HIANG exchanged knowledge about orders processing, training management and tracking member evaluations. 

Colas mentioned the joint training between the CSS teams demonstrated how despite the Reserve and National Guard being different components of the Air Force, they both aim to accomplish the Air Force mission as efficiently as possible. 

Liberty Wing members working with the 15th MXS completed work such as removing a stuck screw on an engine cowl, assisting in multiple nondestructive inspections and fabricating a new pressure tube off a KC-135 Stratotanker. 

For the 512th MXG, training in Hickam meant adjusting to not only a new base and operating procedures, but also to hotter temperatures and the six-hour time difference between Hickam and home station. 

“Completing an annual tour off station gets Airmen out of their comfort zone,” said Colas. “It’s easy to become complacent with doing the same routine sometimes, so getting out into a new operating space is critical to molding our Airmen’s readiness and adaptability.”  

Before the end of their annual tour, the 512th MXG participated in the Aloha Bunny exercise with the 326th Airlift Squadron. 

“The goal of the exercise was to test our (chemical defense) and (ability to survive and operate) competencies while conducting real-world maintenance in a simulated, contested environment,” said Capt. Brandon Bermudez, 512th AMXS director of operations, who planned the exercise with Colas and Master Sgt. Jason Jones, 712th AMXS communication, navigation craftsman. 

They designed the exercise scenarios to push maintainers to think outside the box and create solutions, leveraging Multi-Capable Airmen concepts. The concept refers to training Airmen to be complete tasks outside of their normal duty responsibilities. 

Aloha Bunny, split into day and night shifts, took 15 hours to complete. Exercise players reacted to scenarios that required them to respond to threats wearing varying levels of Mission Oriented Protective Posture gear, perform post-reconnaissance sweeps and provide aid to wounded Airmen. 

The 512th MXG also launched and recovered a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft that the 326th AS flew to and from various islands. 

“With MXG and the 326th AS being aligned in the same cycle of the Air Force Force Generation deployment cycle, it’s imperative that we train and exercise together, said Lt. Col. Ryan Cox, the 326th AS operations officer. “Aloha Bunny helped our planning team develop a working relationship with our maintenance brothers and sisters. This will certainly enable us to plan future exercises together and work as a cohesive unit if we’re called upon to deploy.” 

Lowrey explained maintainers faced challenges, such as only having one aircraft to use when they were scheduled to have two and real maintenance problems that challenged execution timelines, during the exercise. 

Master Sgt. Erin Esquer, 512th AW readiness exercise coordinator, observed how maintainers responded to these challenges, supplementing the evaluations from the four-member wing inspection team.  

“The exercise tested MXG’s and the 326th's ability to operate and execute mission essential tasks,” said Esquer. Even though the units have their respective work, it’s important for them to be able to come together as a force and complete a mission. 

If they’re able to accomplish cohesiveness in training environments, that cohesiveness will transfer over to real-world and high-stress missions.” 

Lowrey and other leaders across the MXG agreed the exercise went well.  

“I couldn’t have been happier,” said Colas. “As far as I could see, our proficiency was there. I hope maintainers grasped a better understanding of what it’s like to operate in an austere environment and learned we have the capability to work efficiently even with limited resources.”