TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. – Since its inception in 1947 Air Force aircraft have delivered in one way or another.
Mobility planes have delivered munitions to support combat operations, supplies to aid natural disaster victims and in 2018, assistance to Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, after Hurricane Michael ravaged the base.
At Travis AFB, California, home to the largest air mobility wing in the U.S. Air Force, knowing what aircraft can support a specific mission is the responsibility of the 60th Maintenance Group’s Maintenance Operations Center.
The center coordinates all maintenance actions for Travis aircraft, as well as transient aircraft that stop at the base. The center, which runs 24/7, is manned by about a half-dozen Airmen who manage the maintenance needs and track the mission status for Air Force resources valued at $13 billion.
At any given time, a commander may ask for a KC-10 Extender, C-17 Globemaster III or a C-5M Super Galaxy to support a mission somewhere in the world and the MOC helps ensure that capability, said Staff Sgt. Gabriel Walker, 60th MXG senior maintenance operations controller.
“We coordinate maintenance for inbound and outbound aircraft, as well as the maintenance needs for all aircraft at Travis,” he said. “We are also responsible for tracking the mission capability status for each airframe and informing the command post or higher headquarters of any maintenance discrepancies that could impact missions. This is important because everything is based off maintenance including takeoff times, cargo loading and fleet services.”
Simply put, Walker said, projecting American power anytime, anywhere, which is the Travis mission, would come to a grinding halt without the services the MOC provides.
“Flight line operations rely on us to ensure we are tracking the status of each aircraft and that we do that accurately,” he said. “We track the mission capability of every aircraft here and we know what is needed to return a jet to full mission capability if it’s down for maintenance. We liaise with the people on the fight line, maintainers, production superintendents, the command post and commanders to ensure each aircraft is mission ready. Without the MOC, the mission would suffer.”
Along with tracking the mission capability for aircraft at Travis, the MOC also tracks the maintenance needs for Travis aircraft operating at other locations. Doing so enables the MOC to dispatch maintenance recovery teams to resolve issues that may arise during missions.
“Our maintenance recovery teams are in high demand,” said Senior Airman David Pluskota, 60th MXG senior maintenance controller. “An MRT is a small group of maintainers who are certified to fix whatever issue one of our jets is having.”
“Our MRTs are so vital because someone is waiting for that jet to deliver cargo, supplies or personnel and that can’t happen unless maintenance issues are taken care of,” added Walker.
In 2018, the MOC coordinated the response of numerous MRTs delivering nearly 300 mission critical parts to 302 airfields in 90 countries. During that same time frame, the center also supported more than 3,600 missions, including aerial refueling for the President of the United States and the return of Korean War POW/MIA remains.
One reason the MOC is able to coordinate all those missions is because of its location, said Master Sgt. Michael Pester, 60th MXG MOC section chief.
“One of the unique things about Travis’ MOC is that it is collocated with the Command Post and the Air Terminal Operations Center,” he said. “Using this to our benefit is critical to mission effectiveness and overall success of Travis airframes both here and at deployed locations. Several other bases in Air Mobility Command, as well as other commands, are starting to look to the Travis’ model and implement it in some fashion for themselves.”
“Having that tight-knit working relationship with those agencies cuts down drastically on miscommunication and saves anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours in potential delays for each flight,” said Pester. “All this translates into the controllers being better able to do their jobs and communicate between the flight line maintainers and AMC when they’re looking for updates.”
It feels good to be part of such an important mission, said Pluskota.
“I know what I do matters,” he said. “I know where each aircraft will go and the impact it has on the mission. Airmen often tend to focus on doing their jobs and may not notice the impact they truly have. Serving in the MOC has opened my eyes to see we have an incredible impact every day.”
It’s an impact that Walker said is only possible because of maintainers working tirelessly on the flight line.
“I have to give credit to our maintainers, the mission doesn’t happen without them,” said Walker. “They’re the ones working the long hours on the flight line in all conditions ensuring our aircraft can fly. Without them and their dedication mission success isn’t possible.”
Pluskota echoed Walker’s sentiment.
“The show time for one of our KC-10s is about 12 hours before departure, so our maintainers will show up around 5 a.m. for a mission that’s supposed to fly at 5 p.m.,” said Pluskota. “They ensure each aircraft is ready and they’re out there rain or shine.”