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Pieces of freedom

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Cox, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, retrieves aircraft components May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Attention to detail skills are vital in order for Airmen to maintain proper accountability and handling of parts and tools. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Cox, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, retrieves aircraft components May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Attention to detail skills are vital in order for Airmen to maintain proper accountability and handling of parts and tools. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Cox, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, tightens a medium pressure rubber hose assembly May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Hydraulics Airmen often rely on several shifts in order to complete repairs in a timely fashion, such as having one shift disassembling and inspecting a part and the next shift reassembling and testing the part. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Cox, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, tightens a medium pressure rubber hose assembly May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Hydraulics Airmen often rely on several shifts in order to complete repairs in a timely fashion, such as having one shift disassembling and inspecting a part and the next shift reassembling and testing the part. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Cox, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, inspects brake assembly fixtures May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Brake parts are inspected for wear and corrosion, cleaned and then reassembled and tested before reattachment to the F-15 Eagle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Cox, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, inspects brake assembly fixtures May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Brake parts are inspected for wear and corrosion, cleaned and then reassembled and tested before reattachment to the F-15 Eagle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

A U.S. Air Force hydraulics technician from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron inspects a toolbox full of fitting kits May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Some of the repairs that are done in the hydraulic backshop are highly technical and often require the teamwork of several technicians to complete. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

A U.S. Air Force hydraulics technician from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron inspects a toolbox full of fitting kits May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Some of the repairs that are done in the hydraulic backshop are highly technical and often require the teamwork of several technicians to complete. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Adam Fischer, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, refers to his technical orders while servicing aircraft components May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Technical orders are step-by-step instruction manuals used by maintenance Airmen that list proper tools needed, any hazards to be aware of and protective gear to accomplish the task. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Adam Fischer, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, refers to his technical orders while servicing aircraft components May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Technical orders are step-by-step instruction manuals used by maintenance Airmen that list proper tools needed, any hazards to be aware of and protective gear to accomplish the task. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Cox, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, tightens a medium pressure rubber hose assembly May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Hydraulics Airmen often rely on several shifts in order to complete repairs in a timely fashion, such as having one shift disassembling and inspecting a part and the next shift reassembling and testing the part. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Cox, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics technician, tightens a medium pressure rubber hose assembly May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Hydraulics Airmen often rely on several shifts in order to complete repairs in a timely fashion, such as having one shift disassembling and inspecting a part and the next shift reassembling and testing the part. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force hydraulics technicians from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics back shop assemble an F-15 Eagle landing gear actuator May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Hydraulics Airmen's responsibilities include maintaining the hydraulic systems of all Kadena Aircraft which allow the aircraft to steer, land and ultimately support Airmen on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force hydraulics technicians from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics back shop assemble an F-15 Eagle landing gear actuator May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Hydraulics Airmen's responsibilities include maintaining the hydraulic systems of all Kadena Aircraft which allow the aircraft to steer, land and ultimately support Airmen on the battlefield. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force hydraulics technicians from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics back shop use a hydraulic test stand May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Before items are sent back to the flightline, they are raun through a series of tests that simulate the same conditions likely to occur in-flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

U.S. Air Force hydraulics technicians from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics back shop use a hydraulic test stand May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Before items are sent back to the flightline, they are raun through a series of tests that simulate the same conditions likely to occur in-flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics day-shift team gathers for a meeting May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. All functioning aircraft in the Air Force are supported by a team of hydraulics Airmen who spend years developing their troubleshooting and repair capabilities with the help of a mentor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

The 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics day-shift team gathers for a meeting May 2, 2017, at Kadena Air Base, Japan. All functioning aircraft in the Air Force are supported by a team of hydraulics Airmen who spend years developing their troubleshooting and repair capabilities with the help of a mentor. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan --

When Joshua Cox was a kid, his passion was piecing together and breaking down elaborate constructions with his massive collection of building blocks. 

Now, as a Senior Airman in the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron hydraulics backshop, he makes his livelihood doing the same thing -- only with aircraft components.

“It’s a pretty cool job if you love finding out how things work,” he said. “Anyone who has ever had a knack for taking things apart and putting them back together--that's the kind of person that really thrives in our career field.”

The hydraulic backshop’s main workspace has a distinct mechanical smell to it; a mixture of oil, metal and sweat. Aircraft parts needing repairs are constantly flowing into the building and fully-serviceable parts come out.

 

Incoming items vary, such as brake assemblies, actuators, landing gears, spoiler actuators that move wing flaps, tubing and more. Each system is indispensable in order to generate unmatched airpower.

 

“When you’re aircrew, you tend to develop a growing appreciation for all the hard work that’s put into the jet’s hydraulic systems, because the amount of things that it ties into are huge,” said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Butts, 909th Air Refueling Squadron evaluator boom operator. “The flight controls, landing gear, boom and brakes all depend on it. To put it simply, the jet doesn’t fly without hydraulics.”

According to Cox, the nature of the job is broken down into two portions. Trouble shooting always comes first and it can take anywhere from a few moments to a few hours.

 

The second step is highly technical and often requires the teamwork of several technicians to break down complicated systems into dozens of pieces and reassembling all of it back together.

 

Once a part has finished being inspected and repaired, it’s ran through a hydraulic test stand which simulates the same conditions the part goes through while in flight, before it’s sent back to the flightline. Most of the shop’s clientele consists of Airmen from the many on-base maintenance units, however it also supports other units overseas as well. 

 

The meticulous process of repairing hydraulic systems goes further than the work bench. Cox said the accountability and handling of tools is conducted with just as much care as the aircraft systems themselves.

 

If a small item such as a wrench is out of place, it can be an indicator that something else had been mishandled. This is why hydraulics technicians are trained to apply a high level of attention to detail in everything they do.

 

“You have to know how every little piece of the system works together,” said Cox. “That way, when something goes wrong, you can often tell exactly what’s going on in the system and get started on fixing it.”

 

Aircraft across the Air Force depend on the constant upkeep and expertise from hydraulics Airmen in order to function. No matter how small the job is, each work order and every tasking is aimed at generating aircraft and ultimately protecting the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region.

 

“The way I look at it,” said Cox. “Every aircraft component is another piece of freedom. We put a lot of focus and hard work into our job, so everything comes together and we’re able to make a big difference.”