301 FW Surge tempo ramps up despite pandemic

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kedesha Pennant
  • 301st Fighter Wing public affairs

Airmen across the 301st Fighter Wing participated in a surge during the super Unit Training Assembly here on November 5-8, 2020.


301st MXS Maintenance Operations Officer Maj. Kelly Ryan said a surge is a generation of sorties (flying missions) at a higher rate than normal operations. To achieve this, 301 FW units worked around the clock to get more of their F-16 Fighting Falcons in the air up to three times a day. The wing continues to accomplish its mission—to train and deploy combat-ready Airmen—safely and under high operations tempo despite the COVID-19 environment.


“This is an opportunity for Airmen to have a deployment-type experience in a controlled environment, which essentially puts stress on our production process,” Ryan said. “[During this training], we have to rapidly assess our work environment, make more decisions about priorities to deliver the next round of sorties to the operators while maintaining the ability to call it off at any time in order to address potential safety concerns or other issues and Airmen [who] may not have prior experience trouble-shooting. The surge helps us achieve a big portion of our monthly sorties in a larger-than-normal chunk, which helps us kick-start our month.”


Sections such as aerospace ground equipment, avionics, aircrew flight equipment, electrical and environmental back shop and the crew chiefs work hand-in-hand. The increase in sorties provides boundless training opportunities for personnel who work each of the three shifts. For aircraft maintenance personnel especially, this is an opportunity to use their skillset in overdrive.


301 FW Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief Senior Airman Selah Santos, who is responsible for servicing, launching, recovering, and inspecting their F-16s, explained how effective communication was a main theme to get through the four-day exercise.


“Communication, communication, trust and more communication [is important],” Santos said. “If you don’t open your mouth about something, it’s not going to get done and essentially it’s going to put a delay on what we’re trying to accomplish as well as possibly create more work for other people. We’re a big team, and we want to get things done in a safe, accurate and timely manner, so we can move forward.”


Santos shared one of the challenges she came across during the exercise and how the importance of teamwork and that communication within the units is paramount to resolving the issue in a limited amount of time.


“On my jet, the canopy was not working correctly—it wouldn’t go down to close properly,” Santos said. “My role in that situation was to call avionics because they are the ones who would take care of [it] since it’s something internal and has to do with wiring. [This coordination] helps with accomplishing our mission.”


Santos also looked back to her time as a crew chief apprentice and remembered there is one thing she can control in a dynamic environment.


“Having a positive attitude is [crucial] because [you] never know what to expect,” Santos said. “[This experience] is eye-opening and you’ll [have to] put what you’ve learned in technical training school to use.”


Master Sgt. Bradly Williams from the 301 FW Maintenance Group, used his 25 year expertise as an F-16 crew chief by passing down what he’s learned to his team.


“Leading by example, I assisted by getting involved in several maintenance tasks to return jets back to service for the next mission,” Williams said. “I take pride in my work and try to instill this in my Airmen. It was very rewarding to see our group of maintainers working hard to successfully complete our mission.”


Another important shop involved in this exercise, the 301 FW MXS Aerospace Ground Equipment section, directly impacted the flight of the F-16.


“Our role [in the surge] was to support the flight line and maintenance back shops with required equipment while gaining valuable experience for future situations,” said Tech. Sgt. Jordan Craighead, 301st MXS aerospace ground equipment craftsman. “We maintained serviceability including refueling, building up our nitrogen carts, conducting service inspections and performing quick turnaround of any unscheduled maintenance. Just as in a real-world deployed environment, we adapted to the situation before us. [In this exercise for example], we put more manning toward the flight line and prioritized our equipment a little differently.”


Craighead added being able to effectively communicate and maintain flexibility for any changes during the exercise resulted in many Airmen getting out of their comfort zones but was necessary to accomplish objectives.


With the surge exercise complete, the 301 FW Maintenance Group plans to assess their overall performance.


“The surge helped our production team know our capabilities and helped us identify strengths and weaknesses in our training and processes,” Maj. Ryan concluded. “We can now address the efforts and systems as we continuously strive to improve delivering airpower.”


In the current climate of COVID-19, the 301 FW MXG implemented all existing measures directed by CDC guidance and 301 FW Commander Col. Allen Duckworth. There were temperature checks being administered to personnel and sanitation practices in place throughout each day.

Public Affairs (817) 782-5000