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Bathing the BUFF

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron wash the tail section of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 23. The aircraft wash typically takes 32 Airmen 12 hours to complete. After the wash, the B-52 was moved to the phase hangar for a 14-day inspection and then returned to the flightline to continue supporting the Barksdale mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron wash the tail section of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 23. The aircraft wash typically takes 32 Airmen 12 hours to complete. After the wash, the B-52 was moved to the phase hangar for a 14-day inspection and then returned to the flightline to continue supporting the Barksdale mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

A pile of used wash pads are put aside for disposal in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 23. The wash pads were used to wash a B-52H Stratofortress before the aircraft underwent a 14-day phase inspection. After the wash, the pads were collected and disposed of. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

A pile of used wash pads are put aside for disposal in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 23. The wash pads were used to wash a B-52H Stratofortress before the aircraft underwent a 14-day phase inspection. After the wash, the pads were collected and disposed of. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron scrub the bomb-bay of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 23. B-52s are brought into the corrosion hangar after 450 flying hours to be cleaned. Along with the exterior, the aircraft?s bomb-bay, landing gears and entryway are scrubbed clean. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron scrub the bomb-bay of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 23. B-52s are brought into the corrosion hangar after 450 flying hours to be cleaned. Along with the exterior, the aircraft?s bomb-bay, landing gears and entryway are scrubbed clean. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Staff Sgt. Eric McKenzie, 2nd Maintenance Squadron wash supervisor, briefs Airmen before they wash a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. During the briefing, the Airmen were instructed to wear all proper protective equipment while cleaning the aircraft, where the exits and eye wash stations were located and proper evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Staff Sgt. Eric McKenzie, 2nd Maintenance Squadron wash supervisor, briefs Airmen before they wash a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. During the briefing, the Airmen were instructed to wear all proper protective equipment while cleaning the aircraft, where the exits and eye wash stations were located and proper evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron search for proper protective equipment for a B-52H Stratofortress wash in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. The Airmen need the PPE to protect them from harmful chemicals. The PPE required for the wash is two pairs of gloves, a pair of goggles, a face shield, rain boots and a water resistant jacket and pants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron search for proper protective equipment for a B-52H Stratofortress wash in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. The Airmen need the PPE to protect them from harmful chemicals. The PPE required for the wash is two pairs of gloves, a pair of goggles, a face shield, rain boots and a water resistant jacket and pants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron don proper protective equipment for a B-52H Stratofortress wash in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. The Airmen donned the PPE to protect them from harmful skin irritants. The PPE required for the wash is two pairs of gloves, a pair of goggles, a face shield, rain boots and a water resistant jacket and pants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron don proper protective equipment for a B-52H Stratofortress wash in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. The Airmen donned the PPE to protect them from harmful skin irritants. The PPE required for the wash is two pairs of gloves, a pair of goggles, a face shield, rain boots and a water resistant jacket and pants. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron scrub the bottom of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. Before every phase inspection, B-52s are cleaned to make the inspection process easier and more efficient. It typically takes 32 Airmen 12 hours to wash the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron scrub the bottom of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. Before every phase inspection, B-52s are cleaned to make the inspection process easier and more efficient. It typically takes 32 Airmen 12 hours to wash the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

An Airman from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron scrubs an engine cowling of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. Before every phase inspection, B-52s are cleaned to make the inspection process easier and efficient. Cowlings are used to cover the aircraft?s engines from the elements but due to their location, the cowlings are prone to build up dirt and grease. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

An Airman from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron scrubs an engine cowling of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. Before every phase inspection, B-52s are cleaned to make the inspection process easier and efficient. Cowlings are used to cover the aircraft?s engines from the elements but due to their location, the cowlings are prone to build up dirt and grease. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron attach their safety harnesses to the empennage of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. As a required safety measure, the Airmen use the harnesses to prevent them from falling while washing the tail-section of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron attach their safety harnesses to the empennage of a B-52H Stratofortress in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. As a required safety measure, the Airmen use the harnesses to prevent them from falling while washing the tail-section of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

An Airman from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron scrubs the crawl space inside the bomb-bay of a B-52H Stratofortress on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. B-52s are brought into the corrosion hangar after 450 flying hours to be cleaned. Along with the exterior, the aircraft?s bomb-bay, landing gears and entryway are scrubbed clean. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
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An Airman from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron scrubs the crawl space inside the bomb-bay of a B-52H Stratofortress on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. B-52s are brought into the corrosion hangar after 450 flying hours to be cleaned. Along with the exterior, the aircraft?s bomb-bay, landing gears and entryway are scrubbed clean. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

An Airman receives direction from a fellow 2nd Maintenance Squadron Airman on which part of the aircraft needs to be cleaned in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. Airmen use an industrial strength cleaner called aero wash to remove dirt and grease that could potentially cover cracks on the aircraft. After the aircraft is cleaned it is moved to the phase hangar for a full inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)
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An Airman receives direction from a fellow 2nd Maintenance Squadron Airman on which part of the aircraft needs to be cleaned in the corrosion hangar on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 22. Airmen use an industrial strength cleaner called aero wash to remove dirt and grease that could potentially cover cracks on the aircraft. After the aircraft is cleaned it is moved to the phase hangar for a full inspection. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)(RELEASED)

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Like any other night, maintenance Airmen head into work for their swing shift, but instead of their Airman Battle Uniforms, the Airmen filter through the hangar in shorts, t-shirts and boots.

This non-traditional work attire is needed so maintenance Airmen can don their proper protective equipment easily and comfortably. These Airmen have a long, hot night ahead of them washing the 160-foot long, 40-foot high B-52H Stratofortress with its 185-foot wingspan.

"One of the most difficult things about the job is that the B-52 is such a large airframe," said Senior Airman, Robert Hayes 2nd Maintenance Squadron avionics specialist. "Typically, a phase aircraft wash takes about 12 hours but there have been times where we had to come in for a second shift to finish washing the aircraft."

The B-52s are brought into the hangar after 450 flying hours to be washed but it isn't just for cosmetic purposes. Washing the aircraft helps prevent corrosion and makes it easier for Airmen to inspect the aircraft.

"Washing the plane allows us to do a thorough inspection of each rivet, bolt, joint and component of the aircraft to make sure there aren't any defects or faults," said Hayes.

According to Hayes, to handle the large task, maintenance Airmen from each shop in the maintenance group are selected to help.

"We usually have a rotation from the different shops," he said. "If there is an error or problem with the aircraft, one of the Airmen from that shop can take care of it then. We all work on different areas of the aircraft but we come and do this together as a team."

Along with teamwork, attention to detail also plays a role in both the wash and inspection. To save time with both duties, the Airmen are split up to inspect and clean specific sections of the aircraft.

"There are people on the wings and the empennage and people working on the fuselage and the engines," said Senior Airman Gregory Pangallo, 2 MXS crew chief. "We really hit everything from the front of the aircraft to the back. We get it all."

Before they disperse to their sections, the Airmen must don their PPE which consists of a heavy duty water resistant jacket, two pairs of gloves, a pair of goggles and a face shield. The equipment protects them from strong chemicals that are harmful to their skin, said Hayes.

"The PPE works well but it's like wearing a sauna suit or being in full mop gear, especially during the summer days," said Pangallo. "There are breaks but you are working hard the whole time; you can get dehydrated very fast if you don't watch yourself."

However, hot wash suits aren't the only draw backs when it comes to the wash. According to Staff Sgt. Eric McKenzie, 2 MXS wash supervisor, in order to make the wash go smoothly, the unit needs more equipment and volunteers.

"Unfortunately we are limited to one pressure washer as opposed to working with four or five," he said. "We are also limited on the number of people available due to the number of wash suits we have. It's a timely process but the more people you have the easier it goes. If you work on an aircraft you can volunteer."

After the wash, the B-52 is moved next door to the phase hangar to begin its 14-day inspection where maintainers inspect the aircraft and make repairs.

"A clean aircraft is more mission ready," said McKenzie. "We can't inspect a dirty aircraft; we would miss spots. You could look directly at a crack, but with dirt and grease covering it there is no way you could tell it was there."

According to Hayes, the aircraft wash plays an essential part of keeping the B-52 reliable and mission capable.

"If we don't do a good job with our wash, we can't do a good job with our inspections," he said. "If we don't do a good job with our inspections, then we are going to miss critical items that can cause severe problems and degrade the mission capability of putting bombs on target."