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Blood, Sweat and Grease: KC-10 AMU Airmen extend beyond expectations

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates -- Although the KC-10 Extender’s primary mission is aerial refueling, it can combine the tasks of tanker and cargo aircraft by refueling fighters, while simultaneously carrying the fighter support personnel and equipment on overseas deployments.

Its mission relies on much more than pilots and boom operators, however. Executing a successful mission in which the KC-10 delivers much-needed gas to help defend the region begins with hard working Airmen made up of a team of crew chiefs and specialists.

That team belongs to the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Extender Aircraft Maintenance Unit, working around the clock to keep the 908th Air Refueling Squadron’s fleet of Extenders in the air — and in the fight.

Since April, maintenance Airmen have overcome austere weather and working conditions to enable approximately 5,300 strikes during 1,200 sorties and supported the offload of 96 million pounds of fuel to more than 8,000 aircraft.

“Weather and heat in general are our biggest challenges. The tarmac and all the equipment gets almost superheated,” said 1st Lt. Scott, 380 EAMXS Extender AMU officer in-charge. “We take our work-rest cycle very seriously, and make sure everyone is properly hydrated. The last thing we want is to lose someone on the job.”

The squadron has less people and a higher operations tempo than a typical U.S. unit Scott said, but they are still required to keep the Extenders safe and reliable for operations.

"Simply put, fixing aircraft is what we do,” said Senior Airman Joseph, 380 EAMXS Extender AMU fuels systems journeyman, from McGuire Air Force Base, NJ. "We always try to leave the aircraft in a better state than when we got it.”

Every maintainer assigned to the 380 EAMXS KC-10 AMU is a fully qualified journeyman or craftsman. They know the steps for each scenario and by using technical orders, they can solve problems quickly.


“Without AMXS, the [KC-10s] wouldn’t get in the air. Without the KC-10, our capabilities wouldn’t reach as far or be nearly as powerful,” Scott said. “We wouldn’t be able to deliver the fight, or bring our people home nearly as effectively.”

As an oft-quoted, anonymous maintainer once said, “Maintainers were created so pilots can have heroes too.”