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News > Commentary - Maintenance: Keeping them in the air
Maintenance: Keeping them in the air

Posted 11/7/2011   Updated 11/7/2011 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Maj. Jeffrey Hunziker
442nd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron Commander

11/7/2011 - KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Another early morning arrival to the flight line as we prepare to take on the day's challenges with our Afghan aircraft maintainers. As the Afghans start to prepare aircraft for the days missions, it is the air advisers from the mighty 442nd Air Advisory Expeditionary Advisory Squadron that review the day's tasks needed to train and advise the Afghan airmen.

At the rotary wing squadron, it all begins on the flight line. The squadron's personnel are responsible for providing mission-capable aircraft to support combat and training missions. They accomplish this by safely launching, recovering, inspecting and servicing the Afghan Mi-17 fleet. The intermediate maintenance squadron provides back shop support not only to the rotary wing, but also for the phase inspection section. But, their primary task is to complete hourly inspections ensuring that the aircraft are airworthy to accomplish the mission.

This monumental task is made possible by 22 Air Force and Navy personnel and coalition team from Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Belgium. Together, we advise 190 Afghan airmen across 10 different specialties, to make the mission happen day in and day out. This unique mission is not for everyone. It takes an individual with a light hearted attitude, patience and stomach for gallons of chai tea. These traits are key to building an enduring relationship with the Afghans that facilitate a positive training environment.

Over the past six months, we have seen a positive change in our Afghan partners. In the past, they used to dedicate all of their airmen to one aircraft that had all the "glamorous" maintenance being performed. Now, they prioritize and create individual teams to accomplish several tasks simultaneously on multiple aircraft. In the past, the Afghan "professionals," mostly officers, would not pass on knowledge to less experienced ranks. Today, they are more involved, passing on that valuable knowledge and building solid foundations for sustainable maintenance capability in Afghanistan.

Although the air adviser undertaking has some daily struggles, we cannot think of a more exciting time than right now for the advancement of Kandahar Air Wing.

Contributing to the evolution of the Afghan Air Force has been an exceptionally rewarding and exciting assignment. It continues to be a great pleasure to serving as the commander of the Mighty 442nd AEAG.

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