The Aerospace Ground Equipment Flight from the 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Alaska prepares support ground equipment to enhance and sustain Eielson Air Force Base’s operations.
AGE personnel serve as a crucial element to the aircraft mission ensuring proper maintenance can be performed on each aircraft. The flight provides heaters, hydrogen, electrical and air pressure support equipment for aircraft maintainers and emergency personnel on ground.
“We maintain a total of 630 pieces of equipment,” says Master Sgt. Nicholas Weier, AGE production superintendent. “Whether it is generators, air conditioners, hydraulic test stands, hydrogen carts or nonpowered stands, we maintain, troubleshoot, service and dispatch each piece of equipment.”
Rather than mastering one specific system, mechanics maintain a wide variety of different systems. For instance, all mechanics are heating, ventilation and air conditioning system certified. Additionally, mechanics are also capable of working with electrical components, various circuitries and diverse hydraulic systems.
The crew performs roughly 750 maintenance actions per year.
“We’re the jacks of all trades, masters of none,” says Weier.
Consisting of military and civilian personnel, the flight is capable of supporting aircraft in transition at a moment’s notice by sustaining 24-hour operations. The entire operation is continually manned through swing shifts, mid shifts, day shifts and week-end duty.
Unique only to Eielson is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Excellence Award-winning Cell Concept. The Cell Concept breaks up the flight into four different sections: air conditioners and hydraulics, bomb lifts and generators, heaters, and light carts and nonpowered equipment. Each cell is capable of both heavy and light maintenance as well as dispatching any ground support equipment.
The concept was developed to rapidly train mechanics on various equipment in a short period of time. The concept’s three-month rotations enabled the unit to diversify the capabilities of each mechanic as needed.
Due to Eielson’s freezing temperatures, portable heaters are also maintained to ensure fellow Icemen can perform their daily duties without serious risk of cold weather injuries.
The crew also plays the role of deicing aircraft to ensure flight capabilities are not halted by inclement weather. Along with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Eielson is the only other base in the Air Force where maintaining and operating deicers are the AGE Flight’s responsibilities.
“We own a total of seven deicers,” says Weier. “We definitely do a lot of deicing of aircraft here. During October 2012 alone, we’ve completed over 200 missions.”
Whether it is supplying additional equipment or tools, the crew works to ensure Eielson’s mission is a continual success.
“Like we always say, there is no air power without ground power,” says Airman 1st Class Harold England, 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron AGE mechanic.
Over the past fifty years, Howard McKellip has watched AGE (Aerospace Ground Equipment) develop into one of the most sophisticated career fields in the Air Force, here is his whole story, expanded...