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The 117th Maintenance Group: On the Move with a Global Impact

The flightline at the 117th Air Refueling Wing in Birmingham, Ala. sits empty as most of the KC-135R Stratotankers are supporting global operations.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Lt. Col. James G. Putman/Released)

The flightline at the 117th Air Refueling Wing in Birmingham, Ala. sits empty as most of the KC-135R Stratotankers are supporting global operations. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Lt. Col. James G. Putman/Released)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Notice something missing from the flightline at the 117th Air Refueling Wing?  Were those tumbleweeds blowing across?  The southwest ramp without KC-135R tankers is a rare sight in Birmingham.

With the current deployment to CENTCOM underway, many from the 117th Maintenance Group, 99th Air Refueling Squadron and other organizations across the 117 ARW are away from home, and those who remain in Birmingham are working hard to support operations downrange.  In the CENTCOM theater of operation, personnel from the 117 MXG are responsible for maintaining and generating our tanker aircraft to perform the assigned mission: airlift of troops and cargo and air refueling of U.S. and coalition receiver aircraft.

Maintenance personnel remaining at home station prepare tanker aircraft not currently deployed for aircrew proficiency, other CONUS and OCONUS air refueling, airlift taskings and the alert mission.  Preparation of aircraft includes performing inspections, repairing discrepancies and servicing with fuel, oil, hydraulic fluid, oxygen, and nitrogen.  Extra effort is required when tankers are rotating to and from theater to include performing detailed major inspections that come due after periods of heavy flying.  At any given time, there also may be up to two unit aircraft at a time in depot-level overhaul at Tinker AFB, OK, for up to a year each.

How do you meet all of the theater and home station mission taskings with a fleet of only nine aircraft, some of which are in depot maintenance or undergoing a major inspection?  It helps to have good working relationships with other KC-135R units that can loan tankers to the 117 ARW when the need arises.  That is why you see names of other states on the tails of otherwise identical KC-135R aircraft on the ramp at the 117th.  The 117th returns the favor, of course, when those partner units are deployed. 

A responsibility we take seriously in Maintenance is meeting the needs of family members while their loved ones are deployed downrange.  When those deployed members return this summer, they will get to spend some well-deserved down time getting reunited with family and friends. 

Most members of the 117 MXG will return home soon and will be recognized for a job well done.   After celebrating the last successful mission, we characteristically talk about preparing for the next deployment.

It is a rewarding and gratifying job to be a maintainer at the 117 MXG and 99 ARS.  We succeed by working closely together as an integrated team of maintenance professionals both at home station and downrange while being encouraged by our families and countless other supporters at home.

The 117th Maintenance Group is constantly on the move with a global impact.