Intermediate-repair facility keeps tankers flying in theater

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Carolyn Viss
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
The central intermediate-repair facility, the only KC-135 Stratotanker brake shop in theater, gets 30 to 50 brakes back into service every month, saving the time and money it would take to ship worn parts back for repairs. The tankers are responsible for the in-flight refueling of most of the U.S. and coalition aircraft.

"It's a non-stop mission here," said Tech. Sgt. Jon Shumard, the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron CIRF hydraulics section chief, deployed from Grand Forks, N.D. "If it weren't for the KC-135s, bombs wouldn't be on target. You gotta have '135s to refuel all the fighters. That's a direct impact on the mission, which gives us all a tremendous amount of job satisfaction."

After disassembling the brakes, they clean, fix and send the parts to the corrosion shop to be repainted, and then rebuild them so they can be sent to supply and be ready to be put back on a waiting aircraft -- all in about two to three days.

"It's dirty work, but these guys do a bang-up job," Sergeant Shumard said.

Staff Sgt. Charles Crespo, a CIRF hydraulic craftsman deployed from MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., left Puerto Rico to join the Air Force shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. He came here because he wanted to do something to help fight the war on terrorism, he said.

Back home Sergeant Crespo was an electronics maintainer in a factory. He feels right at home in the hydraulics career field, he said. This is his fourth deployment in five years.

Staff Sgt. Mark Hughes, a CIRF hydraulics craftsman, said a stratotanker can get about 250 landings out of a brake before the wear indicator pistons show they need to be changed.

Each 250-pound brake they fix in-theater helps keep the flightline full of tankers, taking off and landing instead of sitting on the ground waiting 15 days for a new brake, the maintainers said.

"We also service aircraft from other countries," Sergeant Hughes, a New Orleans, La., native, said.

In four and a half years of service, he's deployed twice, leaving his wife behind at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash.

"Tankers go everywhere and refuel every kind of aircraft, so they're a vital part of the fleet," Sergeant Hughes said.

Although they miss their families far across the ocean, all three men agree the work is rewarding. They work right across the street from the flightline, where they can see and hear everything going on, day and night.

"Back home, what we do is mostly for training purposes, here, it's real-world stuff we see happening," Sergeant Hughes said. "Every time we hear the planes taking off and landing, we know it's because of the work we're doing right now."