Team Dover RODEO maintenance crew keeps engines running

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Steve Lewis
  • 512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
While most RODEO participants have headed back to their hotel rooms for much needed R and R, Team Dover's maintenance crew is out on the flight line preparing their C-17 Globemaster III for an evening takeoff. 

Airmen from the 712th and 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadrons have been working around the clock since they landed July 18, ensuring their aircraft is ready for flight. They've come to McChord Air Force Base, Wash., along with other 512th and 436th Airlift Wing members to compete in the 2009 Air Mobility RODEO July 19-25. 

More than 100 teams are participating in the RODEO, including teams from seven foreign countries. The international combat skills and flying operations competition is designed to develop and improve techniques, procedures and enhance military operations. 

As the sun begins to set giving Mount Rainier a fiery glow, the Dover maintenance team begins their routine pre-flight operations. Tech Sgt. Joseph Therrien and Tech Sgt. Jason Fitler, 712th AMXS members, work to pump jet fuel into the plane while the rest of the team inspects for nearby foreign object debris. 

"We've all been working together to get things done and didn't just concentrate on our individual specialties," said Sergeant Therrien, a jet engine mechanic. 

While the team has been graded on several exercises throughout the competition like basic post flight operations and refueling the aircraft, they've also been responsible for maintaining Dover's C-17. Throughout the week, the aircraft is flown several times and the maintenance team has been taking care of the plane before takeoffs and after landings. 

Some of the maintenance-related tasks the team has done included inspecting the entire aircraft, cleaning it and completing necessary repairs. 

"The repairs we had to make so far were due to the scrutiny of the umpires," said Sergeant Therrien. "We've been paying attention to detail and making sure we're compliant with our tech data." 

Due to the work of the maintenance team, the Dover aircrew has completed their flight evaluations and has kept on schedule throughout the RODEO. 

Maj. Mark Chagaris, 326th Airlift Squadron member and C-17 aircraft commander, said the preparation and abilities of the maintenance team has been evident in the competition. 

"We haven't had to scramble or delay our takeoff because something was broken," said Major Chargaris. "These guys are definitely on top of it." 

With the flight line lights casting an amber glow on the concrete, the Dover maintenance team takes their position to marshal the aircraft for an 11 p.m. takeoff. 

Master Sgt. Joel Tallhammer, 712th AMXS member and maintenance team chief, shouts facing movements as they line up near the C-17. Standing a safe distance from the front of the plane, Staff Sgt. Joel Griffith, 712th AMXS, guides the pilots with orange hand-held flashlights. 

"I think we're doing an outstanding job, and I'm amazed at how well we're doing overall," said Sergeant Tallhammer. "We've definitely represented Dover well at this point." 

As the C-17 flies into the evening sky to complete an evaluation, most of the team head back to the hotel for rest before the next day's exercise. But, for a few team members, work is not yet done. They must stay to continue their jobs so they can maintain the aircraft when it arrives at 2 a.m.. It's just another day in the life of the RODEO Team Dover maintenance crew.