Civilian maintainers: an integral part of AF mission
By Airman 1st Class Davis Donaldson, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 03, 2020
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- Maintainers, military and civilian, are essential to the Air Force’s nonstop mission. Whether the mission involves providing close air support, moving personnel, pilot training or overall, dominating the skies, there are always maintainers in the background there to support.
In fiscal year 2019 alone, the 14th Flying Training Wing at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, flew 56,383 sorties in the T-6A Texan II, T-1A Jayhawk and T-38 Talon combined. Maintainers at Columbus AFB kept maintenance on 225 aircraft to make the sorties possible.
The majority of maintainers at Columbus AFB are civilian, working for M1 Support Services.
Melony Beard, M1 Support Services plans, scheduling and documentation lead, said why she thinks civilian maintainers are significant, not only for Team Blaze, but the Air Force as a whole.
“You cannot fly aircraft if you’re not keeping up with the maintenance,” Beard said. “It’s sort of like changing the oil in your car, if you miss things it’s gonna catch up with you. Our job is to track maintenance exactly the way the Air Force wants it to be done and that we’re keeping those jets going and getting the work done.”
M1 Support Services is a company that provides the bulk of aviation support services, logistics, and engineering services to name a few, all vital to the Columbus AFB mission.
Beard is one of six coordinators that conduct the work schedule for the mechanics at Columbus AFB. She also documents aircraft maintenance.
“The jets have to be healthy and you need experience,” she said. “These mechanics are here every day behind the scenes. When all of the flying has stopped, they’re still out there fixing jets and checking things to make sure the pilots are safe to go the next morning.”
Bobby Robertson, M1 Support Services T-38 Talon mechanic, said it is an honor for him to be a civilian while working as a maintainer for the Air Force.
“We help them to train the best pilots in the world,” Robertson said. “To be a part of that is something that not everyone can say.”
Robertson said there can be challenges being a mechanic, one being switching aircraft. Switching from a new aircraft to an old aircraft, or vice versa, can be especially hard for new maintainers, he said.
Overall, Robertson said the main goal of a maintainer is safety for the pilot and the equipment.
“Coming in here with a clear head and clear mind and doing my job the best I can to ensure a safe product and a happy pilot is our goal,” he said. “We’re here to help make this country the best it can be.”