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67th AMU pushes through back-to-back exercises

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
Life on the road is not uncommon for most Airmen in today's Air Force. For some, six-month and year-long deployments are the norm, while two-week deployments to exercises such as Red Flag are rare. However, for members of the 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, this two-week exercise has turned into a two-month deployment since they're participating in three back-to-back exercises.

Master Sgt. Fernando Baden, 18th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 67th Aircraft Maintenance Unit Special Section Chief, said the unit has been on the road since late September.

"We've been at Nellis AFB participating in the Weapons Instructor Course where our pilots played the 'bad guys' against weapons school students," Sergeant Baden said. "Right now, we're in the middle of Red Flag 09-1 and then we fly to Tyndall AFB, Fla., to participate in Combat Archer Weapons Evaluation System Program where participants will evaluate the air-to-air weapon system capability of combat aircraft in the Air Force."

The 67th AMU's mission in these exercises is to perform daily maintenance on F-15Cs and ensure these aircraft are mission-ready at all times. As the maintenance project officer for these exercises, Sergeant Baden's job is plan the amount of personnel, supplies and equipment that are needed to complete the unit's mission for Airmen from the 18th Munitions Squadron, 18th Component Maintenance Squadron and 18th Maintenance Operations Squadron

"We need all these people to keep these aircraft in the air," Sergeant Baden said. "Sometimes when an aircraft is down it may not take only my guys to get it flying again; we may need avionics or jet engine mechanics working the issue as well."

According to Sergeant Baden, coming to exercises such as Red Flag and Combat Archer offers the maintenance unit great training and improves mission performance back at home station. For maintenance it's fast paced and they get to show their skills.

"We're all on the same team so it makes working with other units that much easier. We continue to build a great working relationship with members of other maintenance units and at the same time make friends for life," Sergeant Baden added. "Who knows? We might even work with them again."

For Airman 1st Class Phillip Pimentel, an assistant dedicated crew chief, this is his first deployment to an exercise.

"We put a lot of work into these jets and coming here I realize how effective my job is after seeing all of them launch on a mission," said Airman Pimentel. "It's a lot different from launching jets at home. Here we launch them on the spot. I've learned a lot more here and have more confidence in my duties."

Being away from Kadena an extended period of time does have an effect on family members at home. However, many receive support through phone calls and e-mails.

"My family has a lot of patience and understands because I typically work 15-hour days," Sergeant Baden said. "Not to mention an eight-week TDY. But they know I love my job and I have to keep the mission going."