March 24, 2010 (by SSgt Richard Williams) - As their F-16 Fighting Falcon pulled into its parking spot on the airfield, the dedicated crew chiefs from the 34th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit had something to be proud of: tail number #89-2119 had returned from its 30th code 1 sortie over the skies of Afghanistan, March 23, 2010.
USAF F-16C block 40 #89-2119 from the 34th FS lands at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan after completing 30 code 1 flights on March 23rd, 2010.
Col. Lawrence Gatti, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Group commander, explained the significance of the 30 code 1 sorties, "No one person makes an aircraft fly 30 code 1 sorties. I have never heard of it in my 32 years in the Air Force, so I think it is a pretty remarkable achievement."
Lt. Col. Brad Lyons, 34th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, explained the code status as a three tear system that rates an aircraft's mission readiness. A code 1 aircraft is one that returns from a mission with no maintenance needs that would affect the safety of flight or mission accomplishment. A code 2 would have maintenance issues that may be a nuisance item, but safety and mission accomplishment would not be affected. A code 3 aircraft would have a severe enough problem that mission accomplishment and safety are affected and the aircraft would not fly until proper maintenance could be performed.
"The maintainers for our squadron are doing an outstanding job for us out here," said Colonel Lyons, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah. "They never forget for a moment that there is an Airman whose life is at risk every time one of our aircraft goes up, and by extension the lives of countless ground forces whose lives would be put at additional risk if our planes did not show up to support them on a daily basis."
The dedicated crew chiefs, the weapons flight, the production staff and the back shops should all take credit for the remarkable feat, said Colonel Gatti, deployed from Langley AFB
, Va. "All of those units have to do their job flawlessly to have something like this come together. This is a culmination of all of their hard work, a real team effort."
Colonel Lyons, a Savannah, Ga. native said, "I've always known we had some of the best maintainers in the business and I think this proves it."
"It is a great feeling," added Staff Sgt. Lucas Inboden, 34th EAMU, crew chief for tail 2119. "It makes me feel better to know that this was a total force and a total team effort."
Sergeant Inboden, also deployed from Hill AFB, explained the team effort that went into accomplishing the 30 code 1 sorties was not only due to his own hard work and dedication to mission accomplishment, but the dedication shown by everyone from the pilots flying the aircraft to the people who are turning the wrenches every day.
There are many factors that come into play when trying to keep a jet on a code 1 status, explained Sergeant Inboden, a Dallas, Texas native. Extreme heat and cold temperatures accompanied by wind, dust and rocks wreak havoc on not only the aircraft but the men and women who ensure those aircraft are ready to accomplish the mission.
However, he said the professionals at the 34th EAMU are up to the challenge and focused on the mission.
Col. Patrick Mckenzie, 455th Expeditionary Operations Group commander, said the success of the 30 code 1 milestone hinges on the relationship between the pilots and the maintainers.
"It is a tribute to our maintainers and a tribute to our pilots because we have such a strong working relationship," added Colonel McKenzie, deployed from Langley AFB, Va.
"In this squadron their operations and maintenance know exactly what is going on in each other's worlds; they are involved not only professionally but personally." A relationship Colonel McKenzie sees as key to taking care of each other and ensuring everyone makes it home safe.
Sergeant Inboden added, "I want to give the pilot the forms and tell him that he has a jet capable of getting him back to his family safe and that will complete the mission as required."