493rd AMU: The gold standard at home, abroad

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal -- They say maintenance is the backbone of the U.S. Air Force, and, if the 493rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit has anything to say about it, that's a true statement.

The 493rd AMU's current mission is to keep the F-15C and D Eagles flying high during exercise Real Thaw, a Portuguese- led, large joint and combined forces exercise that trains participating forces on a vast range of battlefield mission sets.

These maintenance Airmen are demonstrating their expertise to an international audience working with numerous NATO allies during Real Thaw.

For the two-week exercise, maintainers are working day and night to keep the 493rd FS aircraft ready for takeoff.

"The Airmen in our unit are hard-working and highly devoted to ensuring our aircraft are mission capable," said 2nd Lt. Connor Maggs, 493rd AMU assistant officer in charge. "As a part of leadership, we were very confident in their ability to maintain and equip the aircraft, and to foster relations with NATO allies because their professionalism and dedication is what get the mission here, at Real Thaw, done."

It hasn't been an easy task for the more than 60 maintainers.

"Working away from home station can be difficult," said Senior Airman Russell Habenicht, 493rd AMU avionics specialist. "We are working with limited manpower during exercise Real Thaw. Using the wingman concept is very important here, keeping each other in check is a priority."

Preparation is key in order to secure a successful exercise.  The maintenance team had to ensure they brought not only the right equipment, but also enough of it. Attention to detail is required all the way down to the nuts and bolts.

During a temporary duty assignment or deployment, maintainers prove they are quick to adapt. Their priority is to maintain the jets in the most proficient way possible.

"Adaptation is a very important characteristic to have as a maintainer," said Staff Sgt. Del Williams, 493rd AMU crew chief. "In a TDY location like Portugal, when something goes wrong, we want to figure out the problem as quickly and proficiently as possible."

At Real Thaw, 493rd AMU maintainers are also learning to work with Portuguese and allied forces.

"Working with our NATO partners is a good career experience," Williams said. "We get to watch how the Portuguese and other allies conduct business, and, in return, they learn our way of maintenance."

"Working by our NATO allies is pretty cool," Habenicht said. "It's interesting to see how similar we are, but still very different in the way we maintain our aircraft."