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139th maintainers support 10 C-130s during Air Defender 23

  • Published
  • By Michael Crane
  • 139th Airlift Wing

ST. JOSEPH, MO. -- During the month of June, the 139th Airlift Wing supported the NATO exercise Air Defender 2023 with approximately 25 personnel and one C-130 Hercules aircraft. A large portion of that support was nine Airmen from the 139th Maintenance Group.

The Airmen left St. Joseph for Wunstorf Air Base, Germany, about two weeks before the exercise started on May 30, and they hit the ground running, said Master Sgt. Joel Miller, crew chief assigned to the 139th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

By the second day, they were supporting a mass movement of equipment, to include aircraft engines, to forward operating locations throughout the exercise area. Miller said they helped to transport equipment required by other units lacking the capability to transport.

In addition to their primary duty of ensuring the operational readiness of the 139th aircraft, the maintainers provided assistance in maintaining a total of 10 C-130s belonging to various Air National Guard units. Those C-130s were different variants including H2.5, H3, NP2000, and the J model.

“Our 139th aircraft was amazing and had only a few minor issues but this gave the opportunity to learn and teach the multi-capable Airmen concept,” said Miller. “We had a great team that was willing to assist wherever needed with maintenance recovery teams and local maintenance issues.”

When an aircraft breaks down or needs urgent maintenance, a maintenance recovery team is called in. They choose people who are qualified and confident in their abilities to rescue the plane, no matter where it is, said Miller. Several maintainers from the 139th participated on such teams.

Tech. Sgt. Derek Boland assisted with a C-130 that experienced a four-engine rollback, a situation where all engines lost substantial power, at Hohn Air Base.

Tech. Sgt. Nathan Nebelsick traveled to Ramstein Air Base to fix an elevator boost pack which deals with the cargo ramp and door of a C-130.

Tech. Sgt. Ariana Anaya traveled to Poland to assist with the removal and replacement of a pitot probe, a short tube on the front of the C-130 that measures air speed.

The exercise was from June 12 - 23, but even when the exercise ended, Master Sgt. Daniel Hess and Tech. Sgt. Cameron Blanton joined Miller in assisting with an in-depth structural inspection on a C-130J called an Over G inspection.

“Which is pretty much tearing the whole plane apart and looking at every structure on it to make sure it's still structurally sound [to] fly,” said Miller.  “Definitely takes a lot of hands.”

By the end of June, the maintainers contributed to the transportation of 1,214 passengers and 1.2 million pounds of cargo. Their work also supported airdrops with over 500 paratroopers and 13,000 pounds of cargo airdropped during the exercise, said Miller.

“This exercise was probably the most demanding one I've been involved in,” said Miller. “The exercise itself was very rewarding as it was a Guard only exercise joining NATO [and] being the largest deployment of air forces in NATO history…allowing us to show what we can accomplish in a short time.”