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104th Maintenance Group maintains readiness during COVID-19 mission

Staff Sgt. Brett Pitoniak, 104th Maintenance Group non-destructive inspection technician, looks for the end of a crack so on an F-15 Eagle so that it can be repaired April 10, 2020, at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Massachusetts. Although MXG has had to implement changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to excel in their jobs, ensuring the 104th Fighter Wing pilots can continue their mission.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Sara Kolinski)

Staff Sgt. Brett Pitoniak, 104th Maintenance Group non-destructive inspection technician, looks for the end of a crack so on an F-15 Eagle so that it can be repaired April 10, 2020, at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Massachusetts. Although MXG has had to implement changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they continue to excel in their jobs, ensuring the 104th Fighter Wing pilots can continue their mission. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman 1st Class Sara Kolinski)

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. --

Airmen from the 104th Maintenance Group continue doing their jobs to ensure that the 104th Fighter Wing mission does not falter amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the 104th aircraft maintainers have had to implement changes to ensure their health and safety, they continue to excel at getting the F-15 Eagles up in the sky.

“We have smaller shifts, so there's a lot more work to be done and less working time because there's only one shift instead of two,” said Tech. Sgt. Tyler Kozik, 104 MXG aircraft structural maintenance technician.

The 104th MXG is one of the key groups supporting the 104th FW’s mission to provide highly trained personnel and equipment for dedicated service to the community, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the nation.

“The most important part to what we do is making sure the alert mission has aircraft that are on status and ready-to-go to meet the demands that are placed on them by First Air Force — so in case there is a scramble, they’re all ready to go,” said Senior Master Sgt. Abdias Garcia, 104th MXG aircraft maintenance production supervisor.

The changes that have had to be made to ensure the mission is still being met have led to lessons along the way, which the 104th MXG will be able to continue implementing once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

“I think we’ve learned some efficiencies from this, so we can definitely draw a lesson from that,” said Garcia. “We started doing virtual meetings through the defense collaboration service, and that’s something that we've never used before. Now, we're going to be able to use it at other times for other reasons, whether we are deployed or whatever it may be.”

Although the pandemic has created a need for new restrictions to personnel, entry points, and daily activities, the 104th MXG has stepped it up and is making sure the pilots will be able to fly when they are needed.

“I’m proud of the entire Maintenance Group for what they've done to make sure that these jets are ready to go and their readiness hasn’t dropped any,” said Garcia. “We're still ready to go out and do whatever the mission may need. Since COVID-19 has kicked off, we’ve had really high, fully mission-capable rates, so we've actually stepped it up to make sure that we're ready to meet the demands.”

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