Friday, January 16, 2015

TOP STORY >> Little Rock’s downrange black-letter beast

By Airman 1st Class Mercedes Muro 
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs 

Little Rock Air Force Base Airmen have accomplished another rare black-letter initial – this time it’s downrange. 

Little Rock AFB Airmen assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit in Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, gave C-130J 3145, a Little Rock AFB aircraft, black-letter initial status Nov. 12, 2014. 

Before and after a flight, crew chiefs inspect the aircraft with the form 781H. If the aircraft has a discrepancy before or after the flight, it is noted on the form with red ink. However, if the aircraft has zero discrepancies, then the form is initialed by the crew chief in black ink and the aircraft receives black-letter initial status.

A black-letter initial is considered to be so rare that some crew chiefs can go their entire career without seeing one.

“After all the years I have been wearing the uniform, this is the second-black letter initial I have witnessed,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bubba Beason, 455th EAMXS superintendent. “You hear of them, but you don’t really see them.” 

Although having an aircraft return from a flight with zero discrepancies can appear as a stroke of luck, it stands as a testament to the aircrew’s dedication to their aircraft.

“When I first found out that aircraft 3145 got a black-letter initial, I thought about all the hard work that had gone into that aircraft had finally paid off,” said Airman 1st Class Adam Zaremba, the 455th EAMXS dedicated crew chief who gave the aircraft black-letter initial status. “It’s a cool experience, but it’s just my job to fix the aircraft and make them the best they can be so aircrews can fly them and perform their mission without any problems.”

Although inspecting aircraft is part of the job, Zaremba and Senior Airman Ryan Hutchins, the 455th EAMXS assistant crew chief for aircraft 3145, know that they have played a huge part in acquiring a black-letter initial while deployed.

“It’s very special to accomplish such a feat in an environment that isn’t always favorable,” said Hutchins. “It’s more difficult to find time to fix discrepancies when the plane still has to accomplish flying missions.”

In addition to the time crunch, accomplishing a black-letter initial in a deployed environment is difficult because of the workload. However, the Little Rock Airmen assigned to the 455th EAMXS credit achieving this accomplishment by working together as a team. 

“All the hard work is done at the home station,” said Beason. “The isochronal stands, the fuel cell work, heavy maintenance, petroleum, oils and lubricants, the air tactical operations center, supply, schedulers, maintenance leadership and everyone else behind the scenes helped make this happen. It’s a team effort, and we are at the very end. The folks here, I believe, are the absolute best in the business.” 

Despite the harsh conditions at Bagram, the Little Rock AFB Airmen stationed there still strive for excellence. They are dedicated to accomplishing the mission both at home and afar to ensure rapid global mobility.

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