Wing serves as 'one team, one fight' during training deployment

SOUDA BAY, Greece -- Naturally, any movement of aircraft and personnel from one base to another requires all the efforts of a team focused on a single mission.

The recent flying training deployment between the U.S. and Hellenic air forces Jan. 16 through Feb. 13 at Souda Bay, Greece, represented no exception.

The deployment aimed to develop and improve air readiness while expanding strategic and operational ties between the two NATO partners.

And for every F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft pilot who arrived from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, four or five specialists from various maintenance, mission support, medical and wing staff Airmen dedicated their time and resources to ensuring their success.

"It's a complex machine that gets put together any time we mobilize and deploy, and it's certainly not just the operators of the 480th FS," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Berkland, 480th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander.

Before the FTD even started, planners assigned to the 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base devised every detail of the physical move: items as large as the aircraft itself to small supplies like ear plugs. They also routed the path for 300 Airmen from the moment they left Spangdahlem in the air and their return back there, with accounting for all their accommodations, meals and local transportation while in Greece.

"It's been said that 'Amateurs think about strategy; professionals think about logistics,'" said Berkland, quoting U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Robert Barrow, former Commandant of the Marine Corps. "It's the foundation of any military operation -- logistics. We wouldn't be here without the 52nd LRS. Without them, there'd be no fuel, no maintenance equipment and no maintainers because of transportation. It's humbling, and whether you're in operations, maintenance, or security forces, I hope our guys understand the importance of the entire deployment team."

As 480th EFS pilots left the planning rooms for the flightline, they first checked in with aircrew flight equipment Airmen from the 52nd Operations Support Squadron. The specialists issued out the helmets, survival vests, harnesses and G-suits needed for every single flight.

The outward appearance of a pilot in this gear may seem bulky and cluttered to those unfamiliar, but the AFE professionals entrusted with caring for those items know they represent a critical moment for which they are prepared but hope they never have to face.

For one AFE journeyman, he said he knew if worse came to worst, everything he and his fellow technicians work on will save the pilots' lives. And when the pilots go home safely, it's a good feeling for them, too.

Parked on Souda Bay's flightline, all 18 of the 480th EFS' F-16s received nearly 24/7 attention and care from maintenance Airmen.

"We're the last ones to touch the F-16 before it takes off and the first ones to touch it when it lands," said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Tyrail Carter, a 480th EFS aircraft armament journeyman from the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Carter and his fellow 52nd AMXS Airmen spent their time on the flightline giving each F-16 a thorough overlook for safety and performance before launching out.

"Greece has been a wonderful opportunity, especially for my first TDY," Carter said. "It all shows how well we work as a team. As cliché as it may sound, we're 'one team, one fight.' We all work, live and eat together. We work together to get the mission done as one unit."

Alongside Carter on the flightline, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Eric Williams, a 480th EFS electrical and environmental journeyman also from the 52nd AMXS, rendered services on the aircraft's internal capabilities including its air conditioning, oxygen levels and emergency systems.

 
"They say 'E&E' stands for 'Everything Else,'" Williams said. "It's really important and can be a matter of life and death; we certainly hope it never comes to that. But without the main electrical power, it could shut down the whole engine. It's hard work, but I'm glad to have been here."

Lastly, Airmen assigned to the 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron used their makeshift tent on the side of the flightline to prepare and inspect flares and chaffs for the F-16s while also providing opportunities for squadron Airmen, as well as volunteers from wing staff agencies, to gain insight into the contributions behind their Air Force Specialty Code.

"We're a diverse crew and come from a lot of difference specialties," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. David Bohl, 480th EFS NCO in charge of munitions operations from the 52nd EMS. "But we do a lot of training and teach each other on what each person does."

While the maintainers may not don flightsuits, Berkland spotlighted them and their senior NCOs, whom he dubbed as "fighter pilots in maintainer's bodies."

"They are problem-solvers and extremely proactive leaders who run the flightline," he said. "We have an amazing relationship with them. I can't imagine a better team; they've been phenomenal."

To see more photos from the FTD, visit the following Flickr photo set.