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By Capt. Elizabeth Rogers
1st Theater Sustainment Command
Aviation maintainers from the 82nd Airborne Combat Aviation Brigade enabled the 40th Combat Aviation Brigade to increase its operational readiness here since their arrival in June.
U.S. Forces Command deployed the Soldiers after receiving a request for forces from U.S. Army Central in support of the 1st Theater Sustainment Command to assist with the phased maintenance of multiple Army airframes, including the UH-60 Blackhawk and the CH-47 Chinook.
“We had very short notice to come out here and embedded right with the 40th CAB,” said Sgt. 1st Class Carl Rothermel, non-commissioned officer in charge of the 82nd CAB Soldiers. “We got right to work, we had no issues with ‘we do it this way,’ we just got straight to work.”
The request for forces was originally submitted by the 1108th Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group, as a counter measure to solve the issue of the lack of aviation maintenance contractors in theater due to COVID-19 restrictions. The request was approved as the 1100th TASMG took over the mission in April.
“Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, contractors were not able to come into Kuwait. There were a lot of restrictions on their movement into the country,” said 1st Sgt. Matthew Gwin, 1100th TASMG’s maintenance non-commissioned officer in charge. “So, we needed a maintenance source to provide to the CABs here in order to supplement their phased and unscheduled maintenance requirements.”
A total of 19 Soldiers from the 82nd CAB out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were brought to Camp Buehring, Kuwait, to fulfill the request. This included seven CH-47 mechanics, seven UH-60 mechanics, four avionics Soldiers and an NCOIC. Rothermel noted that for some of the Soldiers, this was their first mission oversees.
“The way that the 19 Soldiers are helping the 40th CAB is they are providing the combat power, or as we refer to it, bank time, by producing the phases,” Gwin said. “That gives the combatant commander and the CAB commander the ability to fly the aircraft more.”
Phased maintenance is a large-scale inspection where they tear down aircraft and check all the components to ensure everything is still up to standard. If something is not, then repair parts are ordered and the part is replaced. Once everything is inspected, the aircraft is reassembled and a maintenance test flight is conducted.
According to Rothermel, this process is conducted on a rotational basis based on the number of flying hours for each aircraft. For the CH-47 chinook, phased maintenance is conducted every 320 hours and maintenance is conducted on the UH-60 after 480 flying hours.
“It is the ongoing project they are focusing on, but during that timeframe, if aircraft break or they have any issue that needs troubleshooting, the Soldiers are able to maneuverer around to address those unscheduled maintenance events, which helps maintain aircraft in a flyable status,” Gwin said.
The Soldiers with the 82nd CAB are working with the 40th CAB daily to ensure that maintenance stays on schedule. Since it takes approximately 30 days for one aircraft to be fully inspected and maintained, the additional personnel enabled the maintenance to stay on track.
“The importance of my team being out here is sometimes unscheduled maintenance comes up… so having additional maintainers out here can offset some of the down time the maintainers on ground with the unit see and the aircraft can get back into rotation,” said Rothermel.
Kuwait is now lifting some of the COVID-19 restrictions, so contractors are starting to rotate in to Camp Buehring. The Soldiers of the 82nd CAB and 40th CAB maintained the work requirements to allow the contractors to step right in.
Gwin believes the program is going well because active-duty Soldiers are working with their National Guard counterparts to accomplish the mission. Once enough aviation contractors have transitioned into theater to support operational requirements, the 82nd CAB Soldiers will return home having positively impacted the ready to launch rates of aviation assets in the U.S. Central Command area of operations.
“It’s been a great experience across the board. The 40th CAB has been extremely receptive and helpful with everything and it adds to the assistance that that 1100 TASMG has been able to provide to the 40th CAB,” Gwin said.
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