TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Rapid global mobility is the ability to deliver on demand to any location on Earth. At Travis Air Force Base, California, home to the largest air mobility wing in the U.S. Air Force, Airmen in the 860th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron pride themselves on helping ensure Air Mobility Command can deliver American power anytime, anywhere.
In February, the unit’s maintainers welcomed 18 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Over the course of the next four months there were three C-17s from JBLM at Travis AFB at any given time, along with approximately 100 maintainers from the 62nd Maintenance Squadron, while JBLM completed a nearly 100-day construction project on its runway.
The C-17s flew to Travis to complete home-station checks, required assessments performed at periodic intervals to ensure the aircraft are air worthy. Travis also hosted four C-17s from March Air Reserve Base near Riverside, California, in April, so the aircraft could complete required modifications.
“This is a perfect example of three complex, highly-talented and elite organizations making the mission happen,” said 1st Lt. Krista Kelly, 860th AMXS aircraft maintenance unit officer in charge. “Our synergy has been the shining example of flexibility and determination.”
Master Sgt. Damon Thurman, 860th AMXS inspection section chief, and other unit leadership coordinated hangar space and a wash rack schedule, along with work and rest cycles to ensure the needs of JBLM and March were met.
“I mapped out the maintenance schedule for our aircraft for the entire year before JBLM or March’s C-17s arrived,” Thurman said. “When we found out JBLM and March jets would be coming here, we had to re-work the maintenance schedule to accommodate everyone. Finding space to ensure each aircraft is properly maintained can be quite a challenge.”
“JBLM also used March ARB as a staging location for their C-17s as they waited to complete their inspections,” Thurman said. “This enabled us to have the space needed to complete the inspections at Travis. Over the past three plus months, we have helped complete 18 home-station checks.”
A home-station check consists of in-depth maintenance that goes beyond standard flight line maintenance.
“We look at all aircraft systems, as well as the wear and tear the aircraft may have experienced that isn’t visible without performing an in-depth inspection,” Thurman said. “This can lead to the resurfacing of engines, changing tires and inspecting all the panels on the aircraft.”
“We look at tires to make sure they are still good and the brakes to ensure they are safe,” said Staff Sgt. Courtney Schomaker, 860th AMXS inspection section craftsman. “If there’s any concern, we replace the brakes, the tires or anything else we need to. We also ensure the wings are greased well enough so the pilots can complete their pre-flight inspections and all the controls move as they should.”
The staff sergeant said her team has helped their counterparts from the 62nd MXS when needed.
“Our team has helped the 62nd maintainers with tools or extra hands whenever we were asked,” she said. “I helped inspect the pitot tubes on one aircraft, which are tubes that track air data and temperature in flight. I helped ensure they were getting the proper air flow so nothing goes wrong.”
Having such a strong impact on the mobility mission means a lot to her, Schomaker said.
“What we do is very rewarding,” she said. “Not a lot of people know about aircraft maintenance. They just see an aircraft in the air and they may not realize how much hard work and time it took to ensure that aircraft can fly. When I see a C-17 in the air, I feel proud because I helped put that aircraft in the air. I helped ensure that crew is safe and they can return to their family. That’s very fulfilling.”
While Travis has supported JBLM and March C-17s for slightly more than three months, Thurman said, all three bases have benefited from working together.
“We’ve been able to develop stronger working relationships between us so if we have an issue with one of our jets, I can reach out to them and see if they’ve experienced the same issue,” he said. “This opportunity has also benefited Travis and JBLM as we have been able to take advantage of additional training opportunities. The relationship between Travis and March is stronger as well as we have to coordinate maintenance actions with one another on a regular basis.”
The final JBLM HSC was completed June 6 at Travis, while the modifications for March aircraft are ongoing.
“March will also send two more C-17s to Travis to complete modifications before the end of June,” said Maj. Kelly Womble, 860th AMXS maintenance operations officer. “These modifications will ensure compliance with federal regulations.”
Thanks in part to the 860th AMXS, both bases missions will continue without missing a beat, Thurman said.
“It’s been a pretty neat experience showing that we can take care of Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s jets and coordinate maintenance requirements with March,” Thurman said. “We are doing all we can to ensure rapid global mobility.”
Kelly added that collaborative efforts like this will be a benchmark across the command.
“I witness the boundaries we can push when necessary and that my team is always ready to raise their right hand and say, ‘send me, I have an idea,’” she said. “This challenged us, no doubt, but the integration within AMC is what makes us such a mobile, war-fighting machine. Partnerships like this will become the standard in the future and will only make us stronger as an Air Force and as a Nation.”