Crew chiefs from the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron inspect their tools at the start of the duty day on Barksdale Air Force Base, La, Feb. 2. Ensuring the tools are in good working order and all accounted for is the first step the Airmen take to ensure Barksdale's B-52H Stratofortress bombers are primed and ready to launch. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco) (Released)
Airman 1st Class Jacob Andrews, a crew chief for the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (right), prepares to connect an air line to a B-52H Stratofortress bomber while Col. Thomas Hesterman, 2nd Bomb Wing vice commander, ensures the line is not tangled at the generator on the flightline at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Feb. 2. Hesterman spent the day with a crew chief team preparing an aircraft for launch so he could get a first-hand perspective on the work maintenance Airmen do every day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco) (Released)
by Tech. Sgt. Mike Andriacco
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
2/7/2012 - BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Every B-52H Stratofortress mission that takes off from Barksdale Air Force Base begins on the ground, hours before the launch, with the dedicated work of the 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's crew chiefs.
Formally known by their aircraft maintenance Air Force specialty code of 2A5X1, Aerospace Maintenance, the crew chief's list of duties and responsibilities is long, encompassing "nose-to-tail" knowledge of what it takes to keep a 52-year-old plane in the air safely.
During the course of the past year, aircraft maintenance personnel played a critical role in the accomplishment of more than 1,100 aircraft sorties totaling approximately 7,000 flight hours, and repaired more than 92,000 aircraft discrepancies, or malfunctions.
The 2nd Bomb Wing vice commander, Col. Thomas Hesterman, spent Feb. 2 with a team of crew chiefs working to launch an aircraft so he could learn more about what they do for the mission.
"I've always had great admiration for these young Airmen," he said. "They go out on the line day in and day out no matter how hot, how cold, how wet or how windy it is and make the mission happen."
He added that to do the mission, crew chiefs have to have certain attributes.
"They have to be knowledgeable about the numerous systems, skilled at applying the right procedure at the right time, tenacious to keep at it and possess tremendous endurance to keep going," Hesterman said. "I am also impressed with the great team effort to make it happen. Teamwork between the crew chiefs working together to ready and launch the jet; teamwork between the crew chiefs and the specialists to accomplish the maintenance to get the jet back up; teamwork between the crew chiefs and the aircrew to test the systems and get the jet airborne."
In order to become a crew chief, Airmen attend a technical training school at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, but their real education begins when they get to their first assignment and put their hands on an active aircraft. The hours are long and the job can be difficult at times.
"The most challenging aspect of B-52 maintenance is working in some of the rough weather that we have here," said Staff Sgt. Kevin Henchey, a crew chief with the 2 MXS. "It gets pretty cold and windy out there, which makes it very difficult to move around and work wearing all that cold weather gear."
In spite of the difficulties, however, there are rewarding aspects to the mission as well.
"My favorite part of the job is launching the aircraft," Henchey said. "It is the culmination of all the hard work and effort that all of the maintainers put into putting that aircraft in the air. I am honored to be working on an aircraft that is so aged, with such a rich history, yet still flying sorties like no other aircraft in the Air Force fleet. I'm glad to be a part of the history of this aircraft."