SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
The launch and recovery of aircraft, engine maintenance and servicing life-saving equipment are just samples of the many tasks needed to support the flying mission of the 52nd Fighter Wing.
The Airmen of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron are experts in adaptability, able to operate in a vast range of environments and elements to support the 24-hour operations of the flightline, base, wing and the Air Force.
“Without night shift, the jets wouldn’t get fixed and the next day’s flying mission wouldn’t get done,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Eric Gerke, 480th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief. “Day shift is solely responsible for making sure the jets get up in the air and come down safely. If jets break during the day, maintainers on night shift are here to fix them. Preparing them to complete the flying mission is our job.”
According to Gerke, night operations allow Airmen ample opportunities for team building tasks, traveling, training and staying up-to-date on maintenance skills.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Glenn Check, 480th AMU aerospace propulsions craftsman, said it’s unique here because the flying mission has given them the opportunity to travel and be able to integrate with other ally and partner countries throughout Europe.
“Working nights here is a lot more hands on and in-depth maintenance, a lot more time in crews,” said Gerke. “Day shift typically has one person assigned to a particular aircraft for the duration of their shift, it’s more fast paced for them. For us on nights, we’re able to work in three-man crews, so I feel like there’s more comradery among us.”
On nightly basis, especially during the months of colder weather, jets are towed into protective hardened shelters, analyzed for damage that may have occurred during flight and then repaired accordingly, but it’s during the cold when the maintainer’s limits are challenged.
“We are human. When the body gets cold, it slows down,” said Gerke. “We have to layer up, we have to tow the jets every night adding an extra step in preparing them for maintenance. We’re also faced with limited visibility so we’re out here an hour earlier because it gets dark around 5 p.m. to accommodate. So that’s a disadvantage because the shifts can become longer, but we have a job to do. We make sure what needs to be, gets done.”