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Maintenance backbone: Productions Managers at their finest

By Master Sgt. Gaetano Fedele 2nd Maintenance Group

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Barksdale's B-52H Stratofortress bomber presence felt around the world begins with a one-striped Airman who de-conflicts maintenance and ensures there are aircraft available to meet the mission. The Air Force Specialty Code 2R1X1, Maintenance Production Management, or Maintenance Plans, Scheduling and Documentation, is as much an art form as it is Air Force Instruction compliance.

The 2nd Maintenance Group Scheduling section is responsible for orchestrating more than 4,000 maintenance items spanning 28 aircraft. A great deal of precise planning must occur to provide the fine balance between aircraft availability necessary to train assigned aircrew and required maintenance actions to sustain Cold War-era iron. Despite this meticulous attention, plans must continuously evolve from the time they're developed until execution to account for crew, mission and aircraft status changes.

Now, rewind 18 years to 1995. When I realized my Air Force career would have me become a maintenance production manager, I was apprehensive as to what I would tell my family about my job. I joined open general because I wasn't sure what I wanted and liked the idea of having choices. As it would work out, I got my last of seven choices and thought I would be scheduling oil change appointments at a gas station for aircraft. However, I quickly realized that my initial assessment could not have been more wrong. While the Maintenance Production Management career field is not well known, our efforts directly contribute to every sortie recorded. Surprisingly, scheduling maintenance, like oil changes, is only a small part of what we do. A B-52 scheduler is responsible for scheduling all minor and major aircraft maintenance, integrating long-range, monthly and weekly plans and watching over the entire 2nd Bomb Wing flying hour program. Part of the thrill that comes with being a scheduler is that you are quickly assimilated into the big picture. Our one-striped Airman I spoke of earlier can hold greater responsibility and has wider recognition throughout the group and wing than most of his peers.

Planning for the annual flying-hour program begins every March when the 2nd MXG Maintenance Production Management team begins forecasting aircraft availability and airframe capability for the next fiscal year. Accurately portraying our capability directly impacts the amount of flying hours we receive. A miscalculation in the area of airframe availability/capability can result in overloading maintenance resources or sacrificing aircrew training quality. As maintenance managers, one of our primary missions is to defend fleet health with a mindset that the flying hour program is there to train and become proficient in our war time responsibilities.

In order to provide both maintenance and operations with a solid aircraft availability outlook, a plan is developed that incorporates all known long-range requirements for the upcoming month. Initial planning begins as early as three weeks prior to the applicable month. Additionally, this plan acts as an inspection planning tool, aircraft availability chart, static display aircraft plan and primary and spare aircraft plan. Perhaps most importantly, it provides a roadmap to successfully meet the monthly and annual flying hour program.

In 18 years, I've had the pleasure of working alongside some of the best maintenance production managers as well as training the next generation, and Barksdale has the most dedicated, selfless and professional maintenance managers I've ever worked with. Despite all the challenges we face, like the return of FY13 flying hours in mid-July, this team shows up with a positive attitude, ready to get the job done right. The 2nd MXG Maintenance Production Management Team may operate behind the scenes, but we are proud of our role in accomplishing the mission.