573rd AMXS depot field team in Egypt during turmoil
The recent anti-government unrest in Egypt turned a TDY trip into an adventure for five sergeants assigned to the 573rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's depot field team, and an Aerospace Sustainment Directorate engineer.
The men arrived in Cairo on Jan. 19 to begin a 24-day evaluation of damaged aircraft at three Egyptian air bases
. Seven days into their trip, the Egyptian capital erupted in what CNN called "an unprecedented display of anti-government rage," with as many as 20,000 protesters taking part.
Through it all, the Airmen -- Master Sgt. Werner VonBurg, team chief; Tech. Sgt. Thomas Hartley, structures lead; Tech. Sgt. Owen Steininger, crew chief; Staff Sgt. Dan Ouverson, electro-environmental specialist; and Staff Sgt. Paul Beatty, structures specialist -- and Eric Matheson, ASD F-16 technical coordinating group engineer, remained safe, protected by the Egyptian military from angry mobs, escaped inmates and random gunfire.
"Our mission was to evaluate the damaged aircraft and make a list of parts and other areas that needed to be replaced or repaired," VonBurg said. "We helped determine whether the aircraft could be fixed where it is or if it needed to come back to Hill for repairs, and a dollar amount for parts and labor. The Egyptian air force makes the final decision to repair it or get a new aircraft."
After completing their first evaluation at Beni Suef Air Base, about 80 miles south of Cairo
, the team took a brief sight-seeing trip to the Giza pyramids and the Valley of the Whales, then traveled 180 miles northwest to Gianaclis Air Base -- just as the demonstrations began.
"We were told by the embassy about the national police day and heard that there might be small demonstrations. The State Department said to stay away from large cities like Cairo, Alexandria and Suez," VonBurg said. "From that point, we were locked down on the Egyptian air base inside a small American compound. The country set a curfew from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., which was later changed from 2 p.m. to 8 a.m. as protests and violence increased."