MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Badgers aren’t normally considered flying animals, but when you give them some tools, an F-16 Fighting Falcon jet engine and a cool facility, they are more than capable to provide fully-functional jet engines that power highly-maneuverable aircraft.
The 35th Maintenance Squadron backed four Air National Guardsmen from the 115th Fighter Wing, better known as the "Badgers," based out of Madison, Wisconsin, by providing them a centralized repair facility.
Currently, the 115th FW is deployed to Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, as a part of a Theater Security Package, but because there is not a centralized repair facility located at Kunsan AB, four members attached to the deployed unit were sent to Misawa AB to provide intermediate maintenance on F-110 jet engine models used in F-16s.
“Misawa’s location is not only important for us, but also important to the U.S. because this is the only CRF base in the entire PACAF region,” said Tech. Sgt. Gregory Witt, a 176th Fighter Squadron F-110 jet engine mechanic. “It’s very important to have this resource available to maintain the ability for the jets to fly for the Air Force.”
Witt explained that with the use of Misawa’s CRF facility they are able to completely disassemble the engines piece by piece, repair them, build them back up and send them back to their aircraft, which personnel normally cannot do on the flightline. He added that they not only provide the service to their squadron at Kunsan AB but also to aircraft from Osan AB.
“Any engine that requires intermediate maintenance at Kunsan or Osan AB will get sent here,” Witt said.
With jet engines costing as much as $3.8 million each, the Air Force must ensure their equipment receives the best quality repairs, and having the facility available allows the members to provide in-depth repairs to the engines. For some, the opportunity is rare.
“At home, I don’t normally get a chance to perform intermediate maintenance on jet engines,” said Tech. Sgt. Laura Valentstein, a 176th FS F-110 jet engine mechanic. “Usually, personnel send engines to the centralized repair facility in Springfield, Illinois. So this is a good time for me to get back to the basics of working in back shop maintenance.”
As part of the Theater Security Package program, the 115th Fighter Wing deployed to the ROK in August for 3 months, busting out approximately 4,000 hours of work to support the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“The Theater Security Package program has been going on for many years,” Witt said. “The Air National Guard is flying approximately 38 percent of the Air Force’s sortie missions worldwide. They’re doing it on seven cents to the dollar, so it’s a very cost-effective move for the Air Force.”
Although they aren’t at their own squadron anymore, Staff Sgt. Adam Clements, a 176th FS F-110 jet engine mechanic, confirmed that he and his team comfortably work out of the 35th Maintenance Squadron’s propulsion shop.
“It’s been a smooth transition from working in Wisconsin to operating out of Misawa AB,” Clements said. “Misawa has been welcoming and really helping us out by showing us the ropes, so we can use our combined knowledge to execute each repair to the best of our abilities.”
Airmen with the 35th MXS agree that having the guardsmen at Misawa AB has worked to everyone’s benefit.
“It’s been awesome having them here,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Rick, the 35th MXS F-110 propulsions maintenance flight superintendent. “The Air National Guardsmen help train our newer Airmen, which builds up our crews and allows us to get engines up and running quicker.”
Rick added their shop appreciates the new perspective and multitude of experiences the crew brings to Misawa.
“It’s nice to have new people come and bring a fresh set of eyes,” said Valenstein. “It’s a great way of keeping everyone accountable.”