Before the flight: Maintaining excellence is universal

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – Members of the 52nd Maintenance Group prepare to tow an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 27, 2015. More than 100 Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – Members of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron prepare to tow an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, during Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 27, 2015. More than 100 Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Sumpter, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, speaks to an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron while conducting a pre-flight check before a mission at Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. The crew chief is responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, appearance and overall condition of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Sumpter, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, speaks to an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron while conducting a pre-flight check before a mission at Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. The crew chief is responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, appearance and overall condition of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Pridgen, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, conducts a pre-flight check on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. More than 100 Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015, exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Pridgen, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, conducts a pre-flight check on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. More than 100 Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015, exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Lancaster, 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, works on the engine of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. NATO exercises such as Trident Juncture provide an excellent venue for current and hopeful NATO members to work on their warfighting, communication and coordination skills. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Lancaster, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion technician, works on the engine of an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. NATO exercises such as Trident Juncture provide an excellent venue for current and hopeful NATO members to work on their warfighting, communication and coordination skills. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Derek Alexander, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, left, and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ramon Salas, 52nd AMXS electrical and environmental systems craftsman, remove an engine panel from a 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. U.S. participation in Trident Juncture 2015l includes Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and special operations assets, to include some Army National Guard and Air National Guard assets.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Derek Alexander, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, left, and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ramon Salas, 52nd AMXS electrical and environmental systems craftsman, remove an engine panel from a 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. U.S. participation in Trident Juncture 2015l includes Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and special operations assets, to include some Army National Guard and Air National Guard assets. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Daniel Brewer, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, conducts a pre-flight check on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. More than 100 Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Daniel Brewer, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, conducts a pre-flight check on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. More than 100 Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Pridgen, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, conducts a pre-flight check on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. More than 100 Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Pridgen, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, conducts a pre-flight check on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. More than 100 Airmen assigned to the 52nd Maintenance Group deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Jones, 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron fuels systems journeyman, conducts a pre-flight check on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. Participating in exercises such as Trident Juncture 2015 improves U.S. interoperability with NATO and allied partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kyle Jones, 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron fuels systems journeyman, conducts a pre-flight check on an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, before it participates in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. Participating in exercises such as Trident Juncture 2015 improves U.S. interoperability with NATO and allied partners. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – Pilots assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, walk out to F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft while participating in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. More than 40 aircraft from nine nations and 3,000 military members are deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – Pilots assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, walk out to F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft while participating in Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. More than 40 aircraft from nine nations and 3,000 military members are deployed to Portugal in support of Trident Juncture 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, secures himself in the cockpit of an F-16 before a mission at Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. Exercises such as Trident Juncture 15 make sure that forces from across the Alliance know how to work together seamlessly, whenever they are needed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)
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BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, secures himself in the cockpit of an F-16 before a mission at Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. Exercises such as Trident Juncture 15 make sure that forces from across the Alliance know how to work together seamlessly, whenever they are needed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – Two F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, taxi towards the runway before a mission at Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. The 480th FS deployed five F-16s and approximately 130 Airmen to Beja in support of Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)
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BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – Two F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, taxi towards the runway before a mission at Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. The 480th FS deployed five F-16s and approximately 130 Airmen to Beja in support of Trident Juncture 2015, the largest NATO exercise conducted in the past 20 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – Four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, taxi down the runway before takeoff at Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. Trident Juncture is an annual NATO Response Force certification exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)
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BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – Four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, taxi down the runway before takeoff at Exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. Trident Juncture is an annual NATO Response Force certification exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, soars through the sky during a training mission for Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. Trident Juncture 2015 is a multiservice, multinational exercise designed to demonstrate NATO's resolve, capability and capacity to meet present and future security challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)
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BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal – An F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, soars through the sky during a training mission for Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal, Oct. 22, 2015. Trident Juncture 2015 is a multiservice, multinational exercise designed to demonstrate NATO's resolve, capability and capacity to meet present and future security challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Luke Kitterman/Released)

BEJA AIR BASE, Portugal -- After organizing tools and making sure all equipment was accounted for, a crew chief took a second to stand up and remove his noise-cancelling ear protection.

With his ears freed, he could now hear the distant sound of four F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, the very aircraft he and his fellow Airmen were just working on, taxiing down the runway.

He turned in the direction of the noisy jets and watched as they maneuvered into position preparing for takeoff. Finally, one after another, the F-16s sped down the runway and elevated into the sky until all four were air born and fading into the distance.

That was it. The mission of the 52nd Maintenance Group Airmen to get the aircraft in the air was complete and successful. But what was the process? People unfamiliar with the responsibility of maintaining an aircraft will not know of the time, effort and coordination that went into creating the 15-second result the crew chief just witnessed.

It is the job of more than 100 Airmen, assigned to the 52nd MXG at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, to provide support for five F-16s during exercise Trident Juncture 2015 at Beja Air Base, Portugal.

Preparing a single F-16 for flight involves completing a lengthy checklist and multiple Airmen specializing in more than five different maintenance career fields. Of those specialties, the crew chief can be thought of as the focal point for ground operations.

"We are a jack of all trades and a master of none," said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Pridgen, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "We do a little bit of everything pertaining to the aircraft. The position requires coordinating with all other maintainers to make sure the jet is air worthy."

Some of the other specialties Pridgen spoke of include weapons load crew members, avionics maintainers, electrical and environmental systems technicians and engine specialists.

"Weapons supply the aircraft with bombs and make sure they are safely attached," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Wesley Calloway, 52nd AMXS aircraft section NCO in charge. "Avionics ensures that all flight control systems, sensors and radios are working properly. Electrical and environmental technicians take care of the power generating systems, ensuring proper electrical output to each aircraft component, and lastly, the engine specialists focus solely on the motor. That is their baby."

Each job has specific tasks that need to be completed in order for all of them to reach the shared goal of getting the F-16 in the air as safely as possible .

Calloway describes what the jet represents when it is finally flying.

"It's a culmination of everyone's hard work and dedication," Calloway said. "You take away anyone of those maintenance specialties and we are going to have issues getting the aircraft up. We rely on one another to be the experts in every aspect of the jet."

Trusting the Airmen around them, the maintainers have used their teamwork to complete flying missions every day of Trident Juncture 2015, an exercise involving more than 30 allied and partner nations conducting air, land and sea training with one another to improve operational capabilities.

The nature of the exercise is providing a unique experience for the 52nd MXG Airmen allowing them to not only bond internally, but with other nations' maintainers as well. 

"This exercise is definitely different," Pridgen said. "With it being a NATO exercise, we get to work alongside other nations' maintenance crews and train, teach and learn with them. That makes it a lot more fun. We get to talk to them and see how they do things."

Viewing other nation's tactics and techniques on pre-flight checks gave insight and understanding between maintainers for future reference.  

"Working with the other nations is a huge positive," Calloway said. "Building interoperability between everyone is why we are here. In the future, if we need to call upon our fellow NATO members and partner nations for help, we will have already built a relationship to make the process seamless."

No matter the type of aircraft or nation that owns it, there is a universal standard of excellence throughout the maintainer career field to make sure that aircraft is prepared for any mission it is tasked. That type of excellence is the foundation that is providing NATO members and its partners with air-power superiority to create security in their regions.