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Fixin' to fly
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airman 1st Class Travis Farr (left) and Staff Sgt. Alex Montero carry a C-130 Hercules forward landing gear door to a storage rack March 25, 2011. Removing the door helps electricians complete necessary repairs easier. The C-130 is undergoing routine maintenace in preparation to support Operation Tomodachi. Both Airmen are crew chiefs with the 374th Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski)
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Fixin' to fly: Night shift maintainers ensure C-130s ready for Operation Tomodachi

Posted 3/25/2011   Updated 3/25/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

3/25/2011 - YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- Most humanitarian aid comes in the form of food, water and fuel. But sometimes it comes in the form of a wrench wielded by a maintainer who uses it to fix a C-130 Hercules so an aircrew can deliver pallets of relief supplies to the people who need them the most.

And in the aftermath of a recent 9.0-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami, Team Yokota Maintainers are working around the clock to ensure as many C-130s as possible are available for aircrews flying Operation Tomodachi missions.

"Our emphasis is on having aircraft ready to go," said Capt. Michael Makaryk, 374th Maintenance Squadron operations officer. "We're running two 12-hour shifts so we can make sure aircrews have planes to fly. One more plane means one more load that can be taken up north."

Captain Makaryk runs the night shift for seven flights of Airmen, all working to ensure C-130 maintenance is done as quickly and effectively as possible, while still upholding safety standards.

The captain and his crews have had great success. One Hercules underwent a detailed examination that would normally take 14 days. They had it flying a week later. Another C-130 is in the middle of a routine preventative maintenance inspection. It should be ready to go Monday -- five days after they began instead of the eight it usually takes.

"The plane we're working on right now is from 1974, so it predates most of the Airmen working on it," Captain Makaryk said. "But with the current premium on aircraft availability, we need to get it back to the flightline without cutting corners or overlooking safety. These maintainers understand that and they understand the mission, so they take a lot of pride in doing it right, but doing it quickly."

For Staff Sgt. Alex Montero, a crew chief with the 374th MXS, fixing airplanes has the extra benefit of helping build relationships with the local populace.

"I live off base and the day of the earthquake, my wife's dog went missing," the Miami native said. "Our neighbors helped us put up flyers and then, on their own, called around to all the shelters. They eventually found her dog and even drove my wife to go pick it up at a place 45 minutes away. I don't think they would have done that before all this happened."

He said the Japanese people are now seeing firsthand the benefits of hosting the Air Force in their country.

"They understand us a little better and what we do, and how we can help them," Sergeant Montero said. "It's a totally different sentiment and it shows other parts of the world how we bring a positive impact where we go."

The squadron superintendent, Senior Master Sgt. Todd Lutte, says "the Airmen get it" and they understand having to work extra shifts and long hours. They recognize that their role as C-130 maintainers makes a difference for the health and well-being of the people of Japan.

"The humanitarian missions are all for a good purpose, so our maintainers are getting the job done, and they're getting it done well," Sergeant Lutte said. "We all felt the earthquake, so this is personal for us. Most of us have Japanese friends and we just want to help however we can. After all, this is our home too."

3/26/2011 12:18:42 PM ET
As a Yokota veteran 316th FMS Aircraft Electrician I understand the commitment and the hard work. I salute you in your efforts espeacially the flight line crew because there efforts are so often over-looked. Good luck and God speed
Ed Howard, AtlantaGa
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