Jets in the air, 100th AMXS put them there

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau
  • 100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

The health of the KC-135 Stratotanker fleet at RAF Mildenhall is of the utmost importance as it is the only air refueling mission in the European and African theaters of military responsibility.

Every day, these tankers take to the sky to provide fuel support to not only their U.S. Air Force brethren, but to ally and coalition forces in the hope of mission success.

Airmen of the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron are tasked with providing daily care of the fleet and keeping jets in the air to ensure they are able to carry out their mission.

“The mission of the AMXS is primarily focused on the launch and recovery of KC-135s at RAF Mildenhall,” said Master Sgt. Sean Kirkland, 100th AMXS assistant superintendent. “We are the ones you typically see out on the flightline performing maintenance on all parts of the jet.”

AMXS is comprised of six different Air Force specialties: crew chiefs, hydraulics, electricians, propulsion, communication/navigation and instrument flight control systems Airmen.

“We all work as a collective team,” Kirkland said. “There are a lot of moving pieces in our squadron as we are pretty much responsible for all aircraft on the flightline and those off-station.

“It is our job to take ownership of the aircraft until the aircrew shows up. When they arrive, it’s now in their hands, but once the mission is complete and they disembark, AMXS regains control and complete the necessary maintenance so the next mission goes off without a hitch.”

The squadron is split into two different components – the Aircraft Maintenance Unit, which covers maintenance on the flightline, specialists and crew chief sections, and the Sortie Support flight, whose mission is to load supplies onto the aircraft and calculate flight configurations.

“Launch and recovery of aircraft, servicing, inspections, delayed discrepancies, piloted-reported discrepancies and fueling are just some of the tasks our squadron performs on a daily basis.” Kirkland explained.

Along with these daily tasks, preparing KC-135s for their primary refueling mission requires all hands on deck and involves many moving parts.

“First, we must identify an aircraft by looking at our fleet health and determining what’s available for certain mission sets,” said Tech. Sgt. Marcus Johnson, 100th AMXS section chief. “Next, configurations are put together, whether the mission calls for seats to be installed or a drogue attachment that’s needed, and this information is shared with our operations group prior to takeoff.

“If a mission requires for an aircraft to land in another country, our job as section chiefs is to coordinate with the flying crew chiefs program to pick an Airman to go with aircraft so it can be serviced at any time.”

Providing routine maintenance at home or on the road is the primary mission of the 100th AMXS dedicated and flying crew chief programs.

“Our job is to make sure aircraft are in tip-top shape at all times,” said Staff Sgt. Trevor Woodruff, 100th AMXS flying crew chief and instrument and flight control systems craftsman. “We supervise pre- and post-flight actions, inspections, launches and recoveries, and make sure our aircraft looks good.”

Woodruff expressed how critical it is for all AMXS Airmen to be able to have strong attention to detail and an eye for minor details and defects in an aircraft.

“When we inspect aircraft and make sure it is air worthy for operators, it is crucial we keep an eye out for any small issues that arise because those can turn into major problems,” Woodruff said. “Not only should we crew chiefs, but all AMXS Airmen, be able to wear different hats and have a basic knowledge of what all sections do to keep our jets in the sky.”

Another program, Stripes on the Line, which features NCOs and SNCOs providing oversight on maintenance performed by Airmen, allows for interaction and training amongst the Airmen.

“It is sort of like in-house quality assurance,” Kirkland said. “We go out and inspect maintenance done on an aircraft, whether it is following up with someone working a specific task or conducting evaluations. It is vital in making sure critical areas are safe and mission-ready.”

Keeping KC-135s in the air will always be the mission of the 100th AMXS, and being able to have a real-world impact is what allows for them to thrive each day.

“Even with a high ops tempo and deadlines that can’t be overlooked, I believe this is what makes our work so rewarding,” Woodruff said. “We all have a sense of pride in what we’re doing every day. Our mission is involved in so many real-world situations that truly make an impact on this side of the world.”