SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --
2016 was a busy year for the 4th Maintenance Group. On top of generating a year’s worth of sorties for four fighter squadrons, the maintenance crews also handled several other monkey wrenches that were thrown into their plans.
With the F-15E Strike Eagle celebrating its 30th birthday in 2016, the airframe has endured its fair share of wear and tear. In addition to its regularly scheduled maintenance, the aging aircraft also received several upgrades to keep it on the cutting edge.
One of the biggest was the radar modernization project, which will upgrade the Strike Eagle’s from mid-80s to early-90s technology and put in on par with fifth-generation fighter jets, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II. Although a team from Boeing is installing the hardware for the upgrade, the maintenance crews have the added responsibility of learning the ins and outs of the new system and conducting routine quality assurance checks to ensure optimal performance.
Similar quality assurance checks also identified 26 Strike Eagles with canopy deficiencies that rendered more than a quarter of the base’s aircraft noncompliant. The situation was further stressed by a major storm on the horizon that would have left the jets defenseless if the repairs weren’t made immediately.
“Our Airmen, along with two engineers from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, made the necessary repairs and returned the aircraft to fully mission capable status,” said Lt. Col. George Sherwood, 4th MXG deputy commander. “Our Airmen worked diligently from the Time Compliance Technical Order receipt straight through the weekend.”
Following the repairs, maintenance crews then turned their attention to thwart a different type of threat: Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.
In coordination with the 916th Air Refueling Wing, the group expeditiously relocated more than 40 Strike Eagles and several hundred personnel to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, within 48 hours of the initial decision. Concurrently, teams were dispatched to safeguard maintenance facilities from the historic cresting of the nearby Neuse River.
The weekend work that went recovering the jets and other assets is commonplace in the maintenance world in order to keep up with the high-octane operations tempo. The same can be said for TDYs and deployments. The group travelled far and wide to deliver on nearly a dozen TDYs throughout the year, including six back-to-back in support of deployments and combat training operations.
The globetrot continued as hundreds of maintainers spent half the year deployed with the 335th Fighter Squadron to Southwest Asia in support of OPERATION INHERENT RESOLVE. Thanks in large part to 24/7 operations from the grounds crew to keep the aircraft in prime condition, the Chiefs flew more than 9,250 combat hours and dropped upward of 2,000 bombs on various Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targets.
“We were out there in the heat day-in and out just to make sure that the [aircrew] were staying cool and the avionics were staying cool so they could put bombs on targets,” said Staff Sgt. Daniel Keeling, 4th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron engine specialist.
Despite all the obstacles the group faced in 2016, they were still able to stay ahead of schedule to the tune of around 650 sorties.
“The relentless work ethic and drive by the Airmen and NCOs in this section to not let the mission fail, regardless of the situation or how high the odds were stacked against this section or our fellow maintainers is a true reflection of our character,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Boudinot, 4th Component Maintenance Squadron aircraft fuel systems technician.
The outstanding character of the entire 4th MXG was recently on display during the 2016 Maintenance Professional of the Year banquet. The award winners are as follows:
Chief Master Sgt. Thomas N. Barnes Crew Chief of the Year
Staff Sgt. Tyler Danneker, 4th AMXS
Gen. Lew Allen Award
SNCO – Master Sgt. Richard Phillips, 4th AMXS
CGO – Capt. Brian Connolly, 4th AMXS
Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Outstanding Aircraft Maintenance Award
Amn – Senior Airman Fernando Ramirez, 4th AMXS
NCO – Tech. Sgt. Joshua Boudinot, 4th CMS
SNCO – Senior Master Sgt. Patrick Schroeder, 4th AMXS
CGO – Capt. Brian Connolly, 4th AMXS
FGO – Maj. John Ware, 4th EMS
Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Outstanding Munitions and Missile Award
Amn – Senior Airman Michael Brabson, 4th AMXS
NCO – Tech. Sgt. Brandon McBrayer, 4th MXG staff
SNCO – Master Sgt. Charles McDaniel, 4th EMS
CGO – 1st Lt. Ethan McMahon, 4th EMS
Maintenance Training Manager of the Year
Staff Sgt. Krystale Thomas, 4th MXG staff
Maintenance Scheduler of the Year
Amn – Airman 1st Class Ellen Derrick-Bonvenuto
NCO – Tech. Sgt. Jessie Metts
Load Crew of the Year
Staff Sgt. Josiah Seale, Senior Airman Mark Bonuelos, and Senior Airman Alexis Alpirez, 336th AMU
4th Fighter Wing Armament Troop of the Year
Amn – Senior Airman Richard Castilleja, 4th AMXS
NCO – Tech. Sgt. Kory Kling, 4th AMXS
SNCO – Senior Master Sgt. Joel Dickenson, 4th EMS
4th Fighter Wing Munitions Troop of the Year
Amn – Senior Airman David Reed, 4th EMS
NCO – Staff Sgt. Garylee Campos, 4th EMS
SNCO – Master Sgt. Richard Hetter, 4th EMS
Specialist Technician of the Year
Amn – Senior Airman Marcus Washington, 4th AMXS
NCO – Staff Sgt. Jonathan McKelvey, 4th AMXS
Backshop Technician of the Year
Amn – Senior Airman Nathan Ferrier, 4th CMS
NCO – Staff Sgt. Gary Holifield, 4th CMS
Maintenance Support Professional of the Year
Amn – Staff Sgt. Samantha Cooper, 4th CMS
NCO – Staff Sgt. Karen Fisher, 4th AMXS
SNCO – Master Sgt. Michael Mahaffey, 4th AMXS
Maintenance Professional of the Year
Amn – Airman 1st Class Nicole Ainsworth, 4th AMXS
NCO – Staff Sgt. Keith Raetz, 4th CMS
SNCO – Master Sgt. Steven Alldredge, 4th AMXS
CGO – Capt. Chloe Coleman, 4th AMXS
Flight of the Year
Aircraft Maintenance Unit of the Year