Cold weather won't stop 108th Wing Airmen
By Master Sgt. Matt Hecht, 108th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 18, 2018
JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- 108th Wing Airmen are no strangers to the fact that complicated flying machines require constant maintenance, no matter what the temperatures are. Numb fingers and the occasional bruised knuckle plague the tireless mechanics, who can be seen crawling over and around the planes that sit in neat rows on the New Jersey Air National Guard ramp at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
One of them is Tech. Sgt. Raymond DeMarco, a crew chief who is troubleshooting some lights that aren’t working on the refueling boom of a KC-135R Stratotanker.
“We’ve changed out some light bulbs, but these still aren’t working,” said DeMarco, gesturing to the boom that extends from the tail of the aircraft.
The boom is the device that unloads fuel to trailing fighters, bombers, and cargo planes.
“If the lights aren’t working, it might be something inside, so we have someone from the electric shop coming out,” DeMarco continued.
Within minutes, a blue Air Force pickup truck comes by, and Staff Sgt. Garion Reddick hops out.
After consulting with the crew chiefs, Reddick climbed onto the Stratotanker to diagnose the problem with the lighting system.
“I’m just making sure voltage is coming through the fuses here to the components. If it is, the lights should be working,” said Reddick. “If I can find where the voltage stops, I can figure out what component is bad.”
Outside the aircraft, DeMarco, along with fellow crew chief Staff Sgt. Robert Cento, make final checks before the aircrew shows up for the first training flight of the day.
The crew chiefs lovingly quip that the KC-135R is like working on a classic hot rod, with all of its inherent mechanical issues.
“These 1960s' aircraft are like a project car you’re working on, and if you’re a dedicated crew chief like some of us are, you’re working on the same aircraft all the time, “said DeMarco. “The most fun part is taking something that’s broken and making it work again.”
Once the crew chiefs wrapped up aircraft checks, Reddick, the aircraft electrician, emerged with a diagnosis of the problem.
“There’s one component that went bad," said Reddick. "It’s an easy fix–maybe thirty minutes.”
Reddick climbed back into his truck to get more parts, and the crew chiefs reflected on the toughest part of their jobs.
“I think the toughest thing about maintenance is the weather,” said Cento. “We’re out here in the heat, the cold, rain, snow, to me it’s the hardest thing we do.”
DeMarco agreed that the flight line is a tough place to work.
“The weather can really get you,” said DeMarco. “Weather that people couldn’t even imagine being out in, and we’re here. Some of the worst is when it’s a hundred-and-something degrees, and you’re on top of the plane when the sun is hitting it, it’s intense up there.”
DeMarco grabs an orange safety vest and lights, and marshals the plane off the flight line to its takeoff position where the Stratotanker throttled into the sky, the crew chiefs' first mission of the day complete.