Maintaining the mission: Ground equipment Airmen ensure RPA success

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Kristan Campbell
  • 432nd Wing/ 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
With the rising need for remotely piloted airpower, Airmen work around the clock at both Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, and abroad to bring the fight from the air.

Among the many operations conducted at Creech AFB, the Airmen responsible for maintaining remotely piloted aircraft ground support equipment might be easy to miss. However, the Airmen of the 432nd Maintenance Squadron's Aerospace Ground Equipment section, affectionately called "AGE Rangers" by their commander, work diligently behind the scenes, always prepared to exceed mission requirements.

For AGE, troubleshooting and repairing equipment to support the RPA mission is no easy task. The unit at Creech is responsible for inspecting, servicing, maintaining, and transporting approximately 400 pieces of gear at home and multiple deployed locations.

"We get our guys the equipment downrange [that is] needed to carry out the mission," said Senior Master Sgt. Steven, 432nd MXS Flight Chief. "RPA's can't take off without ground support assistance, and that's just what we're doing here."

While the average mission capable rate for AGE is about 85 percent, AGE personnel at Creech have maintained a 95 mission capable rate, the highest the shop has ever seen. With a crew less than a quarter of a normal sized shop, AGE Airmen have prevailed, keeping a positive attitude and camaraderie on the job.

"We keep our equipment in top condition, properly serviced, and with fewer than 20 Airmen on most days," said Tech. Sgt. Nicholas, 432nd MXS AGE craftsman. "We undergo 30 inspections a month, so for us to have such a high passing rate is unheard of."

With so much to do, the AGE members set aside equipment that is ready to be sent within 72 hours to meet the mission anywhere in the world.

"Aircraft and equipment readiness is the maintenance mission," said Maj. Timothy, 432nd Maintenance Squadron commander. "My AGE Rangers have taken that charge to heart. The mission capable rate of the pool of equipment [ready to go at a moment's notice] directly reflects the Wing's readiness to respond to emerging threats for additional support."

Timothy went on to say that the shop established their mission capable rate about six months ago when they deployed healthy equipment which was received and used to stand up a new location.

Maintaining AGE isn't without its challenges, however. Recently the shop faced obstacles such as manning, working with strategic planners, and transporting items to Nellis Air Force Base that need repairs.

"Our folks are creative and find ways to get the job done right," Timothy said. "After we had lost our only machinist needed to fix discrepancies with some of our items, they reached out to Nellis' 823rd Maintenance Squadron for assistance, who were gracious enough to work our items in around their busy mission."

Timothy added that after a large amount of equipment returned from a deployed location, AGE experts went into overdrive to inspect and reconstitute the equipment. To overcome the manning limitations downrange, the shop worked extended hours for several months to achieve readiness for the equipment, and was able to achieve a 100 percent passing rate.

"Personnel readiness is key to our ability to move downrange and execute the mission," Timothy said. "Our Airmen arrive on station and we immediately begin getting them through their task requirements [for upgrade training]."

Not only are the AGE professionals efficient, but also they are also ready to deploy at a moment's notice. At least three Airmen deploy downrange at a time while the shop continues normal operations.

"They accomplish amazing things," Timothy said. "They worked together assessing discrepancies and prioritizing the work to restore a healthy AGE pool, while being innovative in their thinking."