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31st AMXS wins Air Force level award

March 4, 2008 (by SSgt. Sarah Gregory) - After a record-setting year, the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's hard work and dedication to the mission culminated with the squadron clinching the 2007 Air Force Maintenance Effectiveness Award.
The 31 AMXS enabled the wing to fly 8,293 sorties for more than 16,366 flying hours, while maintaining a 84.5% mission capable rate and achieving a 93% flying scheduling effectiveness rate, making the 31st Fighter Wing the most aggressive, efficient, and capable F-16 fleet in the combat Air Force.

In a career field with a wide-variety of individual awards, the Air Force MEA is the highest-level of squadron recognition in the aircraft maintenance world.

"This is phenomenal! It really doesn't get any bigger than this," said Lt. Col. Matt Sanford, 31st AMXS commander. "The MEA is the most highly regarded teamwork award an aircraft maintenance squadron can receive."

The teamwork that brought the 31st AMXS to this point was evident in the number of successful missions completed while undergoing a major re-organization, absorbing manning cuts and numerous Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century implementations. With back-to-back deployments, the 31st AMXS seamlessly mobilized people, equipment and aircraft from Aviano to span the globe in support of two Air Expeditionary Force deployments, one to Pacific Air Forces, marking the first time in AEF history that United States Air Forces in Europe aircraft deployed to support Pacific Command.

"Last year was like the perfect storm ... a whole lot of mission, an inordinate amount of hard work, and ample opportunity to excel," said Colonel Sanford. "The fact is in 2007, half this squadron was deployed for nine months."

From January to May, 12 F-16s deployed to Balad AB, Iraq. In May another 18 aircraft flew to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska for Red Flag Alaska, an air combat training exercise, and from there they flew to Kunsan Air Base, Korea.

"I think [this award] is a testament to the folks we have working here. From leadership down to the lowest ranking Airman, all are professionals," said Maj. William Bradley, 31st AMXS operations officer. "We didn't lose a single mission during our four month rotation to Balad. At the same time, we were preparing to deploy to Alaska and Kunsan. The amount of work it takes to pack out and fly 18 F-16s to Alaska and then Korea and back here is a huge feat and people don't realize what it takes to get this done; the men and women of AMXS made it look easy."

During this same time period squadron members at Aviano, despite several challenges, successfully prepared for a key evaluation and underwent a unique reorganization as the 31st AMXS began implementing AFSO 21 improvements.

"Split operations and reduced manpower were significant obstacles this past year. Anytime you divide your resources you're not going to be as effective," said Colonel Sanford. "With half the squadron deployed most of last year, sustaining home station flying operations was a challenge both from a manning and support equipment perspective. Further, manpower cuts began to hit us during fiscal year 2007 which had us down approximately 70 people."

Despite the split force, the squadron managed to keep the home station mission going strong.

"Operations and maintenance groups exercised together every other week for three months in preparation for the NATO Tactical Evaluation, in which we culminated in the highest ratings possible," said Colonel Sanford. "Let me tell you, hanging bombs on a jet during MOPP 4, Alarm Black is not easy."

After a fast-paced year with a high operations tempo, Major Bradley said that 2008 will be a whole new ballgame in terms of squadron focus. The 31st AMXS is changing their concentration from world-wide missions to refining their maintenance and flying operations adapting to mission changes and major F-16 Common Configuration Implementation Program aircraft upgrades. While these separate challenges call for different skills, they both have the need for focused teamwork to be successful.

"Generating airpower is a choreographed performance between operations and maintainers ... working together on a daily basis to ensure combat readiness," said Colonel Sanford. "This award would not have been possible were it not for fantastic relationship we share with both the 510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons. This award is clearly a testament to that teamwork."

Courtesy of 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

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