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  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Evan Grabell, 436th Maintenance Squadron commander

It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I have ten minutes to get to a meeting on the other side of the base. Just as I’m getting into the car, I hear it – the roar of an airplane engine. With one foot in my car and the other planted on the ground, I pause.

“You’ve got time, and you want to see what jet is flying by,” my inner aviation nerd whispers.

I swivel my head around and spot the source of the sound.

The C-5.

In awe, I watch the behemoth rise over the hangar until it looms overhead. As the C-5 flies by, I marvel at how majestic it looks. No offense to my winglet brothers in the C-17 squadrons – I would have stopped for a C-17, too.

A lot goes into getting those big jets off the ground to support worldwide missions every day of the year. Those of us at Dover AFB acknowledge how much our maintainers here do to make that happen; however, few are aware of the contributions of a geographically separated group of active-duty maintainers from Dover who serve at Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts.

The Operating Location Alpha contingent of the 436th Maintenance Squadron consists of a flight of 48 active-duty Airmen, who are assigned to accomplish the C-5 minor isochronal inspection at Westover in collaboration with our Air Force Reserve partners.

“West-Dover” possesses a similar maintenance facility to the one here at Dover. During the maintenance cycle of a C-5, it receives four minor isochronal inspections at Westover over an eight-year period. Once during that same period, the C-5 comes to Dover for its major isochronal inspection. The major inspection, as its name implies, is longer and more comprehensive.

Each quarter, I try to make the drive, which can take upwards of six hours, to check on my team and to strengthen relationships with the 439th Maintenance Squadron’s leadership. What I’ve discovered is, my Airmen up at “West-Dover” are not only accomplishing the maintenance mission but are actively engaging in all facets of base life up there. Allow me to brag a little.

When it comes to getting the mission done, our maintainers at Westover completed 24 C-5 isochronal inspections, evaluating and fixing approximately 28,000 discrepancies. They did all that with a fly-to-fly average of 21.5 days, outpacing the scheduled time by 30 percent and providing the schedulers of the world’s most capable strategic airlift fleet 216 extra mission-capable days per year!

On top of that, we’re sending one NCO to participate on the Air Force Rugby Team, and another NCO placed second in a base marksmanship competition. Other Airmen have earned intramural basketball and softball championships, as well as the 439th Maintenance Group’s golf league trophy.

Moreover, Westover has opened its doors to become a sort of training hub for the maintenance Airmen of the Air Mobility Operation Wings of Pacific Air Forces and United States Air Forces in Europe, and our Airmen there have contributed to enhancing C-5 maintenance proficiency worldwide; they’ve hosted seven teams, trained 20 maintainers and qualified personnel on over 600 tasks. Four NCOs received Six Sigma Green Belt training and participated in a local process improvement event to increase the medical group’s readiness training. Utilizing 3-D printed parts, our sheet metal shop played a vital role in a recent C-5 wing modification repair. Other Dover Airmen at Westover have integrated with the reservists of the 439th MXG to fill much-needed vacancies in quality assurance, maintenance operations control and production management. That’s not to mention their day-to-day job duties!

So, the next time you look up and see a C-5 flying overhead, know that there are great Airmen – not only at Dover but at “West-Dover” – helping to get it up there.