Materiel Management Flight "You don't fly without supply"

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany - --
Sitting under the glow of fluorescent lights inside an office, or facing the punishing elements checking identification cards at the front gate, or turning wrenches on the flightline provide the back drop for many Spangdahlem Airmen.

But for a handful of Airmen in the 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron materiel management flight, a typical day starts at 7:30 a.m., just as the warm sun starts to rise over the horizon.  The view of a silhouette of the air traffic control tower serves like a sundial with its shadow cast along the flight line. This view awaits the unit's Airmen as they pull into the parking lot of one of the unit's main warehouses to report for duty.


U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Chris Curry, a 52nd Logisitcs Readiness Squadron physical inventory control journeyman from Dawson, Ill., walks down a aisle inside a warehouse March 9, 2015, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Curry deployed here from the 86th LRS out of Ramstein, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

Inside the cavernous warehouse, the beeping of a forklift backing up and the rumble of delivery trucks picking up and dropping off equipment echoes off its white walls and gray cement floor. Airmen walk down long rows surrounded by tall shelves that rival the height of most buildings on base. The shelves hold cardboard boxes full of inventory neatly piled up so high a, bystander could think one of those crates may house the Ark of the Covenant.

Yet the warehouse serves as the location and its contents as the tools M-Flight Airmen stock, recover and track as part of the 52nd Fighter Wing's mission of defending American and allied interests while building partnership capacity.  


U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Austin Spurling, a 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron physical inventory control journeyman from Lincoln, Neb., inventories assets inside a warehouse March 9, 2015, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Spurling ensures all assets are accounted for and ready to accomplish the mission of the 52nd Fighter Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

The duty of making sure the smallest piece of equipment remains in reserve falls on the shoulders of Airmen like U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Austin Spurling, a 52nd LRS physical inventory control journeyman from Lincoln, Nebraska.

"It's more than just counting - it's keeping accountability and ensuring whenever an asset is needed, it will be there to accomplish the mission," Spurling said. "I take a lot of pride as an inventory control journeyman."

Spurling said his section represents just a part of the larger picture of the flight that comprises other sections of the unit to include customer service, mobility, equipment, flight service section and the mobility spares package section.

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Jeremy Grider, 52nd LRS materiel management flight chief from Warren, Arkansas, added that all of these sections affect the base's mission in their distinct ways.

"We provide the things needed to keep planes in the air - from parts to support equipment," said Grider. "When I was an airman 1st class, we had a mural on the wall that I still remember: 'An aircraft is nothing more than an orderly formation of parts provided by Supply and put together by maintenance.'  The bottom line - 'you don't fly without Supply.'"


U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Julie Maas, a 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron customer service journeyman from Grand Haver, Mich., smiles during lunch March 9, 2015, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The flight earned 2014, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa's Materiel Management Flight of the year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

The painting may be somewhere else since he tacked on six more stripes, but Grider credited the devotion of the flight's 103 military and civilian personnel to keeping its message true at Spangdahlem.


U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Alexander Heckenbach, a 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron flight service center technician from Springfield, Mo., looks at due-in-for-maintenance assets that are loaded on a truck bed March 12, 2015, inside a warehouse at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The Materiel Management Flight aims to streamline the process of moving DIFM assets to save more than $500,000. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

Since he arrived, Grider said the unit documented 12 different innovations and quick-fixes, like asset reorganization that helps make the daily grind easier on Airmen.

"We looked at our processes within the flight from an Airman's perspective and asked a couple of simple questions to the workers 'What makes your job difficult?' or 'What would you do to make it better?'" Grider said. "Those simple questions give us, as leadership, a starting point on making it better by eliminating unnecessary or repetitive steps."

Grider further explained that some of innovations currently in progress with the unit not only affect the flight, but the whole base.

These improvements include making the deployment process for those heading down range more straightforward by improving the time it takes to push a chalk of personnel through the "quick fire line."


Chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive gear is displayed on a table March 12, 2015, inside a warehouse at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron Materiel Management Flight mobility section tracks, issues and stores all CBRNE gear for the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

"Improved processes means, improved quality of life for our Airmen," Grider said. "When quality of life increases, so does productivity and morale of the Airmen." 


U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Kael Hassler, a 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron individual protective equipment technician from Quartz Hill, Calif., checks in chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive gear March 12, 2015, inside a warehouse at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The mobility section stores and issues all the CBRNE gear as a part of the Materiel Management Flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Rusty Frank/Released)

In addition to finding new ways to improve their processes for themselves and Spangdahlem Airmen, the flight earned the 2014 U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Materiel Management Flight of the Year. They also helped their squadron win the Maj. Gen. Warren R. Carter Logistics Readiness Award Daedalian Trophy as the U.S. Air Force's best LRS.

"The awards shows our Airmen 'Integrity First' by not pencil-whipping a checklist, 'Service Before Self' by working hard and giving up some of their personal time, and 'Excellence In All We Do' through the best service and products for our customers pays off," Grider said.

Always doing their duty for the customer and not for awards, the Airmen of the 52nd LRS Materiel Management Flight remain dedicated to the mission and Airmen of the 52nd Fighter Wing.

"In times of increased mission requirements and decreased resources, the only way we will be able to continue to support the mission is thru innovation," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Phillip Noltemeyer, 52nd LRS commander. "Luckily, we have a fantastic team, who bring diverse experience and boundless energy to the table, and who truly work each and every day to 'leave it better than they found it.'"