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Barnes Airman makes crucial detection in oil, receives inspector general coin

  • Published
  • By Jerry Hewitt
  • 104th Fighter Wing

BARNES AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, MA – Staff Sgt. Pavel Chumak, 104th Maintenance Group aircraft electrical and environmental technician, received the Air Combat Command Inspector General coin after the Wing’s Capstone Unit Effectiveness Inspection on March 21, 2024, here. Chumak was awarded this coin for his outstanding work ethic and attention to detail after identifying and correcting a potential major hazard, saving Barnes Air National Guard Base costly repairs, and ensuring mission readiness.

“Part of our job here is to service the generators for the airplanes,” said Chumak. “When I went to grab the oil cart for the airplanes, I noticed that the oil in the sight gauge looked more red than it should, and instantly knew that something was off.”

Chumak decided to bring it to the attention of a supervisor and have the oil tested.

“Upon looking at it and opening it up, we could immediately smell fuel, which was not supposed to be there,” said Chumak. “We then took a sample out and confirmed that there was fuel, water, and other dangerous materials mixed into the oil. We had to track down when the oil was used, then drain and flush all the airplanes serviced that day, and finally get to the issue of identifying what happened.”

By preventing this contaminated oil from being used, Chumak effectively prevented major damage and maintained the base’s mission ready status.

“It could have caused major issues,” said Chumak. “It could have even blown up. Thankfully it didn’t happen, but having fuel in there is going to change the viscosity and flash point of the oil and running that through the hot engine probably would have caused major issues. It’s kind of like getting coolant in the oil of your car.”

Senior Master Sgt. Bob Ackley, 104th aircraft quality assurance superintendent, further discussed the significance of Chumak’s discovery by analyzing the potential ramifications had this issue not been detected.

“As a result of SSgt Chumak detecting the presence of hazardous materials in the oil servicing cart, five of our aircraft had to be impounded,” said Ackley. “Had it not been for SSgt Chumak, I am confident that more aircrafts would have been affected, potentially grounding most of our aircraft.” After identifying the issue, Chumak and the 104th Maintenance Group took action and flushed the contaminated oil from all impacted aircraft, returning them to mission ready status.

Despite how rare and challenging it is to receive the inspector general coin, Chumak was more grateful that his attention to detail prevented any major incidents from happening. “I didn’t think this was as big of a deal as it was until I realized how many planes and systems were affected,” said Chumak.” “Getting the coin was great, but really, I’m just glad it was caught and that I noticed it before any planes took off or before anything bad happened and that it was resolved. At the end of the day, it’s up to all of us to be diligent. It’s all just part of the job.”