October 16, 2017 (by SSgt. William Banton) - The 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Blue Aircraft Maintenance Unit, achieved a three-year high mission-capable rate of 95.8 percent during September.
SSgt. Joseph Humphrey (right) and SrA David Adornato (center), 386 EAMXS AMU crew chiefs watch as a C-130H Hercules taxis to take off, October 11, 2017. The 386th AEW reached a five year high in September for the number of C-130H Hercules sorties supporting Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve. [USAF photo by SSgt. William Banton]
This accomplishment comes at a time when the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing flew the most C-130H Hercules sorties in five years, primarily supporting Combined Joint Task Force—Operation Inherent Resolve.
To compare, the average mission-capable rate was 87 percent for the past 12 months. This percentage is calculated by totaling the number of hours a unit is in possession of an aircraft, by the number of hours the same aircraft is fully mission-capable.
"The MC rate is perhaps the peak performance indicator of a unit's performance," said Maj. Joseph Hennessy, 386th EAMXS Blue AMU officer-in-charge, deployed from the Minnesota Air National Guard, 133rd Airlift Wing, St. Paul, Minn. "The rate is very much a composite metric that is a broad indicator providing a single perspective on a unit's health and performance."
When an aircraft needs maintenance, its mission-capability status is categorized based on a color code system. At any given time an aircraft is green, fully mission-capable; yellow, partially mission-capable or red, non-mission-capable. According to Chief Master Sgt. James Smith, Blue AMU maintenance chief also deployed from the 133rd AW, it is the goal of maintainers to ensure all aircraft achieve green status as soon as possible in order to meet the air tasking orders -- the means by which the Joint Forces Air Component commander directs air forces within the area of responsibility.
The maintenance of the aircraft is broken down into two categories, scheduled or preventative maintenance and unscheduled or short-notice repairs.
"Preventive maintenance, to me, is what makes the aircraft continue to fly," said Smith. "The care that these maintainers have on these airplanes and [the ability] to fix these problems prevents long-term breaks."
Smith said the number of years of experience his individual Airmen have working on C-130s, and their ability to know every nook and cranny of the aircraft directly correlates with preventative maintenance and the ability to fix little things before they break. This knowledge is also essential to the Blue AMU's ability to sustain its high MC rate.
"I think it just really boils down to people coming together from [different] units who really want to be here and really want to make a difference," said Master Sgt. Jason Bauer, Blue AMU propulsion craftsman from the 133rd Maintenance Squadron. "They love the airplanes because they know that these are their airplanes, there is a sense of ownership and sense of pride. I think when guys come over here it just draws everybody together with the common goal of meeting the mission and getting the work done."
According to Blue AMU leadership, Bauer was one of a few key players who ensured the unit was running at peak proficiency. Bauer attributes a lot of this success to the training his Airmen had prior to deploying, which allowed them to minimize the downtime of aircraft due to routine inspections and servicing.
"Everyone on the team just kind of came together, we had it set up like a pit crew," Bauer said. "One guy was getting the oil drained while another couple of guys were changing the oil filters and another couple of guys were hooking up some of the compressor wash equipment."
Like Bauer, Hennessy also feels that this success is the benefit of everyone coming together at the right time.
"This is without a doubt a team success," Hennessy said. "Fortunately through [leadership's] experienced approach to this operation, and the challenges of bringing balance, I think we've produced some outstanding results. This maintenance group, squadron, and AMU are a great example of total force and what we can do when we bring the force together. I think the results speak for themselves."