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Supporting the flightline

By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Gonsier 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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Airmen from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron support section give B-52H Stratofortress maintainers the tools they need to work on the flightline.

The 2 AMXS support section distributes, receives, inspects and inventories tools and equipment used on the flightline in order to keep the B-52 mission ready.

"Airmen in support check tools in and out to maintenance Airmen and contractors," said Senior Airman Luke Jordan, 2 AMXS support. "We support all flightline operations."

There are three shifts of support Airmen that maintain 24-hour coverage and are responsible for more than 21,000 tools.

Although units like phase and the reserves have their own support sections, when they don't have a tool or it's broken, the 2 AMXS gives them what they need, he added.

Support Airmen follow the guidelines from Air Force Instruction 21-101, Aircraft and Equipment Maintenance Management, when doing their job. It includes everything they need to know from inventory to what to do when an item is lost.

Everything gets checked going out and going in. The Airmen checking out equipment must inspect their items to ensure everything is accounted for and when a tool set is turned in after use, support Airmen would do the same.

"The first thing I do when inspecting a tool box is by taking out the Master Inventory List," Jordan said. "The MIL is a piece of paper that lists all the tools and where they are located. I check every compartment when inspecting. Right away I can tell if something is missing when its slot is empty."

When a piece of equipment is missing, support Airmen check the MIL to see if it was marked as removed. If the missing item was not annotated, the search for it begins immediately.

"We make sure every tool is in its tool box and accounted for, or it creates a FOD issue on the flightline," Jordan said.

A FOD (foreign object debris) issue refers to an incident in which a tool or piece of equipment is lost on either the aircraft or flightline. FOD on the flightline can be a hazard to the aircraft because it can be sucked up through its engine and cause damage.

The support section is crucial to the mission because they ensure maintenance Airmen are taking proper care of the equipment. No excuses are made when something is missing because support would have known beforehand.

"If there are any issues after the tools are turned in, we need to correct it on the spot," Jordan said. "Quality assurance and MOC are some organizations that are contacted when something is lost on the flightline. They look for it first, and if they cannot find it, we start the missing tool paperwork."

The person who lost the tool must look for a minimum of two hours before the lost tool checklist is completed. Depending on where the tool was lost, either operations on a certain section of the flightline are halted or the plane in which the tool was lost is impounded. When a tool is lost between two B-52 bombers, operations are halted on both of them for a certain amount of time.

The tool is usually found, he said. It's rare for a tool not to be found.

"A whole item doesn't necessarily need to be missing, sometimes tools get broken on the jet and you will have to physically inspect them even though the majority of it is in the box," Jordan said. "The broken tool is treated as if a whole tool is missing. It's still treated as a FOD hazard and needs to be taken care of."

Other than distributing and inspecting tools, the 2 AMXS support section also performs maintenance on equipment like ladders, toolbox locks and cables, he said. However, most tools are given to the precision measurement equipment laboratory and other maintenance units for repairs.

With more than 21,000 tools in storage valued at $15 million, support Airmen have their hands full, Jordan said. They use a program called TCMax, which keeps track of all of the equipment in storage and in use.

Jordan added how the support section helps keep tools organized for all of the maintainers working on the B-52.

"Support takes care of our tools. If we don't have tools, we can't do our job," said Senior Airman Scott Horton, 2 AMXS support section and former crew chief. "If I can have someone watching out for my tools, I can focus my attention on working on the aircraft."

Sometimes tools break or get old and unserviceable, he added. It's up to the support Airmen to replace those tools and keep them functioning.

"Without support, it would be difficult keeping track of all of the tools," Horton added. "Maintainers often do not have enough time to inspect each tool box in order to make sure they are up to par. Support helps maintainers out by minimizing the amount of time they have to spend on their tools."

By having a section responsible for the tools, the amount of mishaps on the flightline decrease and maintenance Airmen can concentrate on getting the aircraft in the air.