Thursday, March 24, 2011

COMMENTARY>>Deployed maintainers keep aircraft aloft

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq – Touted by some as the most versatile aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory, the C-130 Hercules can practically do it all.

From troop transport, cargo airlift and airdrop to electronic surveillance and aerial attack, this four-turboprop engine airframe is robust, but without the support of aircraft maintainers, its success would be limited.

“Our mission is to provide safe, serviceable C-130E aircraft by performing timely, dependable maintenance,” said 1st Lt. Jordon Perolio, 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Dragon Aircraft Maintenance Unit assistant officer in charge.

According to Lieutenant Perolio, who is currently deployed as the 777th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge, the C-130 Hercules of the 777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron here provides tactical airlift capabilities. These aircraft are able to land in austere locations and perform aggressively day after day. Because of the maintenance upkeep, the Hercules is able to perform a variety of different missions in U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility.

“Our planes provide cargo to forward operating bases in Iraq, removing the need for many vehicle convoys which takes Soldiers and Airmen off the front line,” he said.

To keep the C-130s aloft, 777th EAMU aircraft maintainers such as Staff Sgt. David Fabacher, integrated avionics systems electronic warfare craftsman, play an important role.

Sergeant Fabacher, deployed from the 19th AMXS Dragon AMU, inspects and maintains the infrared missile warning and countermeasures systems on the C-130 Hercules aircraft.

“Without those systems on our aircraft, they are left defenseless against threats, leaving them vulnerable to attacks,” he said. “My job is important; any slip up on our part can and will cost lives.”

The sergeant takes pride in seeing the products of their labor, something they don’t get to experience at home station.

“I love it when an aircrew comes back safely and tells us they had surface-to-air missiles shot at them and our systems work as advertised,” Sergeant Fabacher said.

For Lieutenant Perolio, it is very humbling to be part of the 777th with roots that date to World War II as a B-24 Liberator heavy bomb squadron.

“I find it pretty amazing to be able to trace our history back to what some have called the ‘Greatest Generation,’” he said. “I feel that our young folks who have answered our nation’s call and enlisted during a time when our country is in conflict should be linked to those from World War II. I am proud to serve with such fine Americans.”

From providing top cover for ground troops or bringing additional supplies to forward operating bases and providing aeromedical evacuations of wounded soldiers, the C-130 Hercules of the 777th EAS are able to perform their duties, with the support of 777th EAMU aircraft maintainers.

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