Maintenance Operations: Forward thinking, working for tomorrow

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeff Current, 52nd Maintenance Group maintenance operations F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft maintenance instructor and NCO in charge of instruction, briefs a class of Airmen responsible for fueling aircraft on the flightline at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 10, 2014. The 52nd Fighter Wing is currently the only wing that employs just one fighter squadron, meaning every aircraft in the fleet must be flight ready at all times. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexis Siekert/Released)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeff Current, 52nd Maintenance Group maintenance operations F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft maintenance instructor and NCO in charge of instruction, briefs a class of Airmen responsible for fueling aircraft on the flightline at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 10, 2014. The 52nd Fighter Wing is currently the only wing that employs just one fighter squadron, meaning every aircraft in the fleet must be flight ready at all times. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexis Siekert/Released)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeff Current, 52nd Maintenance Group maintenance operations F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft maintenance instructor and NCO in charge of instruction, briefs a class of Airmen responsible for fueling aircraft on hot pits at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 10, 2014. Hot pits are a procedure that allows aircraft to remain running while being refueled. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexis Siekert/Released)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jeff Current, 52nd Maintenance Group maintenance operations F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft maintenance instructor and NCO in charge of instruction, briefs a class of Airmen responsible for fueling aircraft on hot pits at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 10, 2014. Hot pits are a procedure that allows aircraft to remain running while being refueled. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexis Siekert/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Hartley and Airman 1st Class Chalayna Johnson, 52nd Maintenance Group maintenance operators, review the monthly flying schedule at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 10, 2014. Maintenance operations accomplishes their mission with a team of more than 100 people, from 16 different jobs, in eight sections. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexis Siekert/Released)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. David Hartley and Airman 1st Class Chalayna Johnson, 52nd Maintenance Group maintenance operators, review the monthly flying schedule at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, March 10, 2014. Maintenance operations accomplishes their mission with a team of more than 100 people, from 16 different jobs, in eight sections. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexis Siekert/Released)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- "You only know you need us when something goes wrong."

This is how Master Sgt. Jennifer Nightingale, 52nd Maintenance Operations superintendant explains her unit.

Maintenance operations, under the 52nd Maintenance Group, coordinates and provides accurate aircraft status to leadership through precise coordination of all flightline aircraft maintenance activities, trains Airmen, and manages the wing's fleet health through effective scheduling and analysis.

Until recently maintenance operations was its own squadron, but the unit was absorbed by the maintenance group due to force restructure in June. While the name has changed, the unit still operates as a squadron seamlessly, said Capt. Warren Smith, officer in charge of 52nd Maintenance Operations.

More than 100 people from 16 different jobs, in eight sections work to accomplish their mission.

The sections include training, plans and scheduling documentation, analysis, engine management, programs, weapons standardizations, quality assurance, and the maintenance operation control center.

"Ultimately, while the operations group maintains pilots qualifications, maintenance operations take care of the aircraft," Nightingale said. "Although we don't always work to hands-on-maintain the aircraft, we wear the maintenance badge and work behind the scenes to keep them in the air."

Without them, the wing mission couldn't continue, Smith explained.

"Our plans, scheduling and documentation section tracks all of the time-change items that are due on the aircraft as well as build the weekly, monthly, yearly, long-range flying plan," he said. "They track thousands of inspections and they feed that info to the flightline so the schedulers can build what we are going to fly. This ensures we don't ground any of our aircraft and they stay in top shape."

As the positions are demanding, certain qualities are required of maintenance operations Airmen in order to make these plans and maintain a constant state of readiness, Nightingale said.

"In this unit you have to have individuals who are meticulous and forward thinking," she said. "We are never thinking about today; we are already a week, a month, or three months into the future. If we were thinking about today, we would be behind."

While some squadrons may be reactive like playing checkers; maintenance operations could be described as playing chess, because they are postured and ready to act.

"We play a huge part in knowing these aircraft are capable, equipped and ready," Smith said. "We could absolutely execute any mission right now with all the preparation and planning we have in place."

An added challenge and something unique to Spangdahlem is the 52nd Fighter Wing is currently the only wing that employs just one fighter squadron, meaning every aircraft in the fleet must be flight ready at all times.

"Every day, it is just amazing what we are able to accomplish," Nightingale said. "Our team is incredible."