730 AMS catching the big birds
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- A C-5 Galaxy is the largest aircraft in the U.S. military, big enough to transport boats, helicopters and army tanks. When a C-5 stops by Yokota, on its way to deliver a boat to a Pacific Navy installation, who marshals in the 380,000 pounds aircraft? Who replaces the engine for a C-17 Globemaster III transporting three Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters? When the U.S. president comes to Yokota, who refuels his jet and fixes the navigation system? These responsibilities belong to the 730th Air Mobility Squadron maintenance section.
"The planes that go through here, they go to the desert; they drop off supplies downrange," said Senior Airman Sevutha Nhek, 730 AMS aerospace propulsion journeyman. "When you see the jets here, they're doing real-world missions."
The 730 AMS provides maintenance support for four kinds of aircraft from 19 bases across the Indo-Asia Pacific Region and the Continental United States According to Staff Sgt. Steven Pruesser, 730 AMS crew chief. Those aircraft, including the C-5, C-17 Globemaster III, KC-10 Extender and KC-135 Stratotanker, support missions across the U.S. military and the world.
"Maintaining proficiency in multiple aircraft can be difficult for our Airmen," said Master Sgt. Eric Schroeder, 730 AMS production superintendent.
Schroeder said many of his Airmen come from bases where they worked on a single frame. They become adept with their aircraft, but when they are assigned to the 730 AMS they have to have a general knowledge of multiple aircraft.
Without the added challenge of working on multiple airframes, maintaining any aircraft is a high-stakes game.
"If you rush things on a jet, that's someone's life right there," Nhek said. "If a plane does go down you have to ask yourself the question 'where's it going to land?' You don't want it to go down on someone's house. It's all about the safety. That's the number one thing here."
The most challenging maintenance job the 730 AMS deals with is changing a C-5 engine.
"There's so many lines; Oil lines, fuel lines and electrical lines," Nhek said. "When the engine separates from the wing, you don't know if it's going to have a snag line, or if you forgot a bolt."
One engine is worth approximately $22,000,000, which only adds to the importance of getting the job right the first time, according to Nhek.
Despite the pressures, there are some parts of the job the Airmen say they appreciate.
"The most rewarding part, I'd have to say, is the great group of people I get to work with," Schroeder said. "Also just seeing the missions move. That's something I've always enjoyed."
Several Airmen echoed the same idea of community.
"There's a lot of bonding in and outside of work," Pruesser said. "We don't push each other away. We talk to each other and socialize outside of work. Even our supervision, they're always trying to make sure that we're okay. If you have problems at home they don't want you to be here worrying about them. They'd rather you just go home and make sure that your wife is okay and then come back."
According to Nhek, the maintenance world is challenging because the cost of mistakes can be so high. The 12 to 15-hour shifts can be a trial as well.
"The maintenance world can be hard sometimes," Nhek said. "At the same time seeing a jet take off and do its mission, there's a little bit of pride in that. The people you work with is what makes work fun. There's a lot of camaraderie between the guys on the flight line."