An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Maintenance verses Repair of our Airmen

  • Published
  • By Maj. Cameron Richardson
  • 660th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander
This commentary is not about aircraft, vehicles or even any mechanical components. It's about our Airmen in general and how we manage the care and feeding of them throughout their careers. The maintenance verses repair concept is borrowed from the maintenance community and speaks to how maintenance managers plan, coordinate and execute scheduled maintenance events. The goal is to maximize the amount of time we can utilize the aircraft or any weapon system platform for missions and minimize the down time do to repairs. Do we treat our Airmen the same way? I submit to you we do--directly and indirectly.

Maintenance of our personnel is just as important as maintenance of any weapon system or vehicle. Most people think maintenance and repair mean the same thing, but they truly don't. Maintenance is planned events to ensure the reliability, longevity and airworthiness of our aircraft or equipment. Maintenance is normally done under the guise of pre-use, post-use and depot inspections.

Repair in some cases is a part of maintenance, but in most cases repair actions come at the most inopportune time. When something breaks the mission is delayed, hindered or stopped. All of which the U.S. Air Force tries to mitigate. Repairs are unscheduled or unplanned events to get an item or component back to an operating condition. Since it is an unplanned event we throw a great deal of time and resources at it.

How does that relate to our Airmen? Maintenance of our Airmen consists of scheduling training events to foster their careers and professional growth, implementing proper shift schedules for work-rest cycles along with planned regular days off. Managing quality of life issues such as leave schedules, as well as scheduling PHAs, dental exams and gym time encapsulates maintenance of personnel.

Now on the flip side, the need for repair of Airmen normally comes in the form of personnel who have over extended themselves financially and personnel who are experiencing family or marital hardships due to military demands.

Broken Airmen normally show up as Airmen who chronically miss appointments, have difficulty passing the fitness test or have issues coping with life. I call this burnout syndrome.

Burnout syndrome is when our Airmen have multiple issues in various areas. Can burnout be avoided? Yes with a good maintenance action plan. A good proactive approach is ensuring shift schedules are complementary to family life and personnel are making their PHAs and dental exams which is an indirect way of identifying issues that will take an Airman down for long periods of time hindering the mission.

When a good maintenance action plan is lacking, personnel are taken out of the normal mission rotation for extensive repair in the form of family advocacy, legal, financial counseling and mental health counseling.

On the extreme end of the spectrum some personnel will need all the agencies and will be down for extended periods much like heavy repair. This is takes a great deal of time to repair and can be costly, but our Airmen are worth it.

The bottom line is to maintain your Airmen with good scheduled events that balance their lives--pay the little bills upfront or pay for the major repairs bills during the most inopportune time. Our mission hinges on our most valuable resource, our Airmen.