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Outstanding Airmen perform in austere conditions

  • Published
  • By Col. Tyler Knack
  • 436th Maintenance Group
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Winter Storm Grayson has been unleashing its vengeance on the entire East Coast since 10 p.m. last night, pummeling Dover Air Force Base with seven inches of snow and a fierce 40 mph wind that chills to the bone. The Airmen with whom I have the pleasure of serving at Team Dover are bundled up with extra layers against the elements and they keep serving. 

Our mission partners at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations impeccably conducted the dignified transfer mission last night to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and support their families. Our civil engineer plow teams have been working round-the-clock to keep our roads, runways, and flight line clear and passable to sustain an unrivaled power projection platform for our nation. Our Security Forces sentries stand the watch, guaranteeing force protection no matter the conditions.

Then there are my aerial port "port dawgs" and all my aircraft and equipment maintainers in the 436th Maintenance Group, who I am most proud to serve and lead. This storm is ferocious and at times it's hard to see more than a quarter mile down the flight line. There are more than 20 huge strategic airlift aircraft lined up on our parking ramp, but right now I can't see even half of them. I know, though, that my Airmen are working hard to ensure these jets are ready to deliver contingency, humanitarian, or other cargo around the world. 

One team of maintainers is removing an auxiliary power unit from one C-5M Super Galaxy and installing it on another today; it's normally a 16-hour job but in these conditions, with the wind in their faces and drifts of snow piling around them, it might take 20 or more. Taking that extra time is okay with me because I know they'll do it safely, do it right, and they'll do it with great attitudes. I know this because I walked with them and talked with them.

Another team of five maintainers is changing a component on the flight deck of a C-17 Globemaster III; the NCO in charge of that team is taking advantage of the extra time today to train three new Airmen in his section. They'll have that aircraft ready today to support Presidential missions if called upon, and he'll have better prepared Airmen to support tomorrow's taskings. Two of them have quite long drives to get home safely after they complete their shifts; they'll take it slow and easy and they have backup plans in case the roads are that bad. I know this because I spent time on the flight deck with them.

Other teams have been fighting winds and equipment difficulties to de-ice multiple aircraft at once to ensure they are safe for flight. They have been working to load warfighter cargo on commercial aircraft. They have been servicing jets with fuel and liquid oxygen to ensure flight readiness. They have been inspecting aircraft over and over again to ensure safety of flight for aircraft and passengers. They have been clearing aircraft parking spots and parking lots and roads and sidewalks of snow. And they have been ensuring command and control and safety of all our operations despite these abysmal conditions.

This is my team of nearly 1,800 professionals, working round-the-clock despite today's cold and wind. Sometimes it's the heat that makes their jobs so demanding, sometimes it's a lack of parts, and sometimes it's an especially difficult task that they haven't seen in a while. Sometimes it's a shortage of available experienced personnel, and sometimes Airmen have off-duty challenges that can stress them. Today it's the wind and the cold that I thought would dampen their spirits, but I have been mightily impressed with the positive attitudes and tremendous work ethic of our Airmen who are working miracles and delivering airpower for today and tomorrow. I got to know a few Airmen a little better today and tell them, "Thank you." I couldn't be more impressed.