Staff Sgt. Michael Armstrong, 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron aircraft armament technician, cycles rounds through a universal ammunition loader to ensure proper operation of a loader head July 17, 2010, Joint base Balad, Iraq. The UAL is the primary round-loading device for the M-61A1 20mm multi-barrel cannon on the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Sergeant Armstrong is a native of Georgetown, S.C., deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield)
Airman 1st Class Laura Smith, 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron aircraft armament technician, removes the rounds-limit switch on a M-61A1 20mm multi-barrel cannon due to sticking numbers July 17, 2010, Joint base Balad, Iraq. The M-61A1 is capable of firing at a rate of 6,000 rounds a minute. Airman Smith is a native of Whiteville, N.C., deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield)
Staff Sgt. Michael Armstrong and Senior Airman Joseph Churchwell, 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron aircraft armament technicians, attach a loader head to a test stand for operational tests July 17, 2010, Joint base Balad, Iraq. The loader head is the interface for loading rounds into an M-61A1 20mm multi-barrel cannon. Sergeant Armstrong is a native of Georgetown, S.C. and Airman Churchwell is a native of Greenville, S.C. Both are deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield)
Senior Airman David Barnett, 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron aircraft armament technician, disassembles a launcher for repairs July 17, 2010, Joint base Balad, Iraq. The launch assist unit supports the firing of the AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missile and the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile on the F-16 Fighting Falcon. Airman Barnett is a native of Atlanta, Ga., deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C. (Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield)
by Staff Sgt. Phillip Butterfield
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
7/23/2010 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq -- As seen in many Enlisted Performance Reports and award nomination forms, deployed maintenance shops will carry an impressive equipment repair-return rate ,which means a shop can fix something broken and return it into service quickly. However, a shop with a 99 percent repair-return rate, now that is something.
The 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron's armament flight at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, can boast such a rate due to work performance of their Airmen.
The Armament Flight's primary goal is to maintain approximately 500 pieces of alternate mission equipment, which includes missile launchers, pylons, bomb racks and the F-16 Fighting Falcon's gun system, said Master Sgt. Michael Riggins, 332nd Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron assistant armament flight chief.
The shop performs two different types of maintenance on AME; scheduled and unscheduled.
Scheduled maintenance is maintenance that is periodic with most armament flight equipment, and is done to keep equipment operating smoothly.
"I enjoy my job," said Senior Airman Joseph Churchwell, 332 EMXS aircraft armament technician. "Anything that holds a weapon to the aircraft we work on, to include the gun. These systems are inspected at regular times, because there are parts that receive more wear and tear. To keep the equipment operating properly, these parts need to be changed before they fail."
For example, an 18-month inspection on a bomb rack requires changing certain bolts and spacers because they wear out from use. Here in Iraq, the sand and dust get everywhere and parts would wear faster if we did not wash and re-lube equipment, said Airman Churchwell a native of Greenville, S.C. Both are deployed from Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.
However, unscheduled maintenance happens, when flightline weapons maintenance technicians bring broken equipment to the armament flight for repairs, or the armament flight is called to the flightline to render assistance.
"We also help the flightline maintainers troubleshoot malfunctioning weapons systems while the systems are still on the aircraft," said Sergeant Riggins a native of Central, S.C., deployed from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, Eastover, S.C.
Whether performing maintenance in-shop or out on the flightline; the armament flight has earned its 99 percent repair-return rate, said Sergeant Riggins. However, the accolades truly go to the maintainers.
"We don't have any weak links here," Sergeant Riggins. "Since I started working with these Airmen I've been impressed. I can sleep well at night knowing the job is going to get done right and quickly."