April 19, 2007 (by SSgt Kevin Nichols) - Just like in NASCAR, a good pit crew can make or break a team. When tankers aren't in the sky to refuel fighters, pilots take advantage of a pit.
"Hot pits" are crucial in wartime as it gets the fighters gassed up quickly while both engines are still running, and back into the fight.
"It's actually pretty dangerous," said Staff Sgt. James Palumbo, a hot pit supervisor. "But we've had special training to do this, and as the supervisor out here my job is to correct or stop any unsafe acts and make sure everyone is doing things right."
In just a few hours, the F-22 Raptor crew turned around eight aircraft, getting each F-22 back to the sky in around 45 minutes.
"A normal turn time on an aircraft is three hours," Sergeant Palumbo said. "But with hot-pitting we can get them going again in about 45 minutes. They basically pull in, get gas, and take off."
"I help put bombs on targets; help take out the bad guys," said Senior Airman Demetrius Johnson, a weapons technician deployed to Kadena with the 27th Fighter Squadron. As a weapons Airman, his additional duties include being on the fueling team helping out with parking the F-22s and doing checklists.
"I think my job has a very important role in the war on terrorism," he said.
While the F-22s continue their deployment on Okinawa, Kadena Airmen take pride in being among the first to work with them.
"The F-22 is an amazing machine," said Senior Airman Corey Bassett, a fuels specialist with the 18th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Kadena Air Base. "I was very glad they were coming over here and I was able to participate."