The crew behind the AC-130U

  • Published
  • By Raquel Sanchez
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
A great deal of work goes into ensuring Hurlburt Field's assets in the air are flight ready. The 1st Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the "behind-the-scenes" airmen, provide maintenance support for the AC-130U, commonly referred to as "Spooky" gunships at home and down range.

"Rain, sleet or snow we are always there," said Maj. Ronald Kolodziejczyk, acting commander for 1st SOAMXS. "You may not see it but we are always out there, always working, getting airplanes ready for the next mission."

Maintainers perform on-equipment flight line tasks, pre- and post-flight serviceability inspections, systems troubleshooting, aircraft system repair and minor modifications helping to ensure aircraft return safely.

Even in ideal working conditions, the physical stress on an aging aircraft like the AC-130U can present its fair share of challenges. It's the job of maintainers to see that aircraft are operationally ready and safe for their flight crews to get the plane off the ground.

"Everything we do every day is to make sure the airplanes are safe and reliable so that way when the aircrew steps out to the airplane they got a safe machine to go up there and take and do whatever they need to do," Kolodziejczyk said.

Down range maintainers must learn to do more with limited resources often working long hours and providing maintenance support for more than one type of aircraft.

As a production superintendent, Master Sgt. Jason Long provided maintenance support for two different airframes, the AC-130U and the MC-130P, in support of Operation New Dawn.

"We're a demanding asset over there and I think we made a big impact on the war," said Senior Master Sgt. Joseph Davis, sortie generation superintendent for 1st SOAMXS. "A lot of the sister services really rely on us to support them while they are on the ground."

Keeping aging aircraft flight ready requires a lot of maintenance and getting the right parts when a plane breaks down can prove challenging, Kolodziejczyk said. There's also less flexibility in a deployed environment so when an aircraft requires maintenance support it's the crew's responsibility to troubleshoot the problem quickly.

"If an airplane goes down they need to be able to identify what the problem is and put a good solid fix on it and get it back up there," said 1st Lt. Cory Staudinger, officer in charge for 4th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.

If the systems that airmen are using down range are not fully operational it could create some degradation in the mission, said Staudinger.

At home, the 1st SOAMXS continuously train and provide routine inspections to troubleshoot maintenance problems to provide a safe and reliable AC-130U gunship fleet for their flight crews.

Recently, the 1st SOAMXS has begun to allow their crews to fly on the aircraft they service to help troubleshoot maintenance problems and see their systems put into action. These flights enable maintainers to see the impact of their hard work.

"You get to see the whole big picture," Staudinger said. "It allows you to get a better perspective of how what we're doing on the ground affects what they're doing in the air."

As long as the AC-130U gunships fly members of the 1st SOAMXS will be there to support the flying mission.

"Aircraft maintainers have a lot of pride in their work," said Master Sgt. Michael Smith, lead production superintendent for 1st SOAMXS. "It's the commitment and determination from the guys turning the wrenches that put the aircraft in the air."

(Note: The 1st Special Operations Wing welcomed home the final C-130 assets supporting Operation New Dawn from Iraq, Jan. 6. The return of the two MC-130P Combat Shadows and aircrew from the 9th Special Operations Squadron represented the end of Hurlburt Field's involvement to OND. The initial withdrawal from Iraq began in December with the return of the 4th Special Operations Squadron's aircraft. Members from the 1st SOAMXS were among those returning and supporting the return of the 4th and 9th SOS)