Keeping the Hog in the air

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The A-10 Warthog is a straightforward war machine, capable of putting lead on target like few weapon systems can. In order for this aircraft to do the job it was born to do, it takes a team of Saber maintainers dedicated to the mission. It might be easier to think of this team like a symphony, with each squadron in the 52nd Maintenance Group playing different instruments - only this symphony doesn't follow sheet music, it follows technical orders. These technical orders, or TOs, provide the direction that enables us to keep that sweet sound of the A-10 flying overhead.

The TOs used to maintain the A-10 are a living document, which means they are constantly evolving. A team of engineers and maintainers back at the 503rd Aircraft Sustainment Squadron at Hill Air Force Base work very hard to make sure Airmen in the field are working from the best and most accurate technical data available. As tools and equipment change, and maintainers discover new ways to keep their beloved Warthog flying, the TOs are updated.

While the 503rd gets most of its field inputs by way of the Air Force Technical Order Form 22, nothing beats face-to-face contact with a customer. A few weeks ago, a team of maintainers from the Hog Hotline visited Spangdahlem for that very reason. Their goal was to see what a maintainer needed to make their job easier and allow them to keep the A-10 flying. The team visited the men and women of the 81st Aircraft Maintenance Unit, as well as the 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron and 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron, for a three-day period. By going where the rubber meets the ramp, they were able to elicit ideas straight from the people who know what it takes to keep the A-10 flying.

Saber maintainers sent the team back to Hill AFB with 58 action items to resolve. More than half of the items came from technical sergeants, which in my eyes reinforces their position as the technical experts in their career fields. The action items ranged from providing updated sources of supply for common components and correcting part numbers in technical orders, to providing access to the same blueprints the engineers use to evaluate and make decisions about difficult problems. All were important, and all action items will receive an answer.

What does this mean for Spangdahlem and U.S. Air Forces in Europe? Having this team here provided many Airmen the opportunity to interact with the people capable of making changes. It allowed Saber maintainers to see that change is possible. Updating a part number might seem trivial to some, but time lost waiting for the wrong part to issue, then spent researching the correct item and finally waiting for that item to arrive impacts the mission. While maintainers are waiting for that part, there is one less aircraft ready to Seek, Attack and Destroy. Finally, it should show every maintainer that no matter how long things have been done a certain way, there is always a way to improve. That is the Saber maintainer way.