Maintainers, operators walk a mile in each other’s shoes

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ashlin Federick
  • 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Two groups of Airmen recently learned about how the other half lived during a cross utilization experiment.

Maintainers and operators participated in an ops-maintenance immersion program on
the flight line here Jan. 14-18.

The purpose of the program was to build stronger relationships between operators and maintenance. It also helped to improve mission effectiveness.

"I strongly believe that the success of the wing's mission is heavily dependent upon the relationship between ops and maintenance," said Maj. Justin Radford, 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. "We already have a strong relationship, so we are trying to take it to the next level."

The program paired a crew chief with an operator for a couple of days. The maintainer goes through all the mission flight planning. The next day, he was alerted with the crew, flew and spent the entire day with them, through the debrief process. This gave the maintainer a chance to experience the crewmembers' schedules and challenges. Later in the week, one of the crewmembers joined maintenance personnel and performed a combined inspection.

"When ops show up, the plane is ready to go, gas in it, tires are good, and it is all inspected," said Radford." This gives them an inside perspective of what maintainers go through to get the plane ready. If we can have those shared experiences on both sides, I think it will improve an already-strong relationship."

Tech. Sgt. William Goede, 736th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, believes this program gives him a more personal relationship when performing his job.

"We get to actually know them as a person, see what they do and vice versa," said Goede. "We get to see each other's jobs and know why they are important."

1st Lt. Zachery Jaeger, 3rd Airlift Squadron training officer, said learning about the maintainer's job is valuable.

"Seeing how hard it is to change a tire or check the pressure I can definitely sympathize," said Jaeger. "I can understand that it is not a fun job at 32 below for three hours outside while it is comfy inside the jet."

Some of the benefits of this program were the shared experiences and connecting those involved to all facets of the mission. They were able to view the aircraft through the eyes of "the other guys" so that they could apply the lessons learned to their processes.

"I think the benefits definitely outweigh the time," said Radford. "I would gladly give up a maintainer for an entire week so that he can get those shared experiences with ops."

Radford believes the operators will understand a little bit more of what it takes to get the aircraft prepared. He wants his maintainers asking what the operators are looking for so they can see the aircraft through the operators' eyes and provide them with an even better product.

"What we are doing here will impact the rest of their career," said Radford. "They are going to remember and have a better appreciation for each other's jobs, no matter what base they go to next."