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180FW AGE Airmen Keep Mission Flying High

180TH FIGHTER WING, Ohio -- Maintaining mission readiness and keeping aircraft flight ready are top priorities at the 180th Fighter Wing located in Swanton, Ohio. To maintain readiness and meet the demands of various deployments and training exercises, hours of hard work are put in by Airmen in the 180FW Maintenance Group.

For every hour an F-16 Fighting Falcon spends in the air, it spends dozens of hours on the ground being maintained and prepped. The Airmen in aerospace ground equipment are responsible for maintaining critical equipment that supplies electricity as well as hydraulic and air pressure to the planes while undergoing maintenance and preparing for flight operations.

“We perform scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on a variety of equipment in support of the mission,” said Master Sgt. Jim Raabe, assistant superintendent of aerospace ground equipment at the 180FW. “We inspect, test, operate and determine serviceability for proper operation before use and when an issue arises.”

Pilots at the 180FW fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a multi-role aircraft with very complex systems. The F-16 has one 20mm Gatlin gun with a firing capacity of up to 500 rounds; external mounts that can carry up to six air-to-air missiles, conventional air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions and electronic countermeasure pods. The maximum payload is two 2,000-pound bombs, two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, two AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air missiles and two 2,400-pound external fuel tanks.

Aerospace ground equipment plays a key role in testing and maintaining systems vital to the proper functioning of the aircraft, said Raabe. If a malfunction occurs during flight the results could be catastrophic.

To help ensure that does not happen, aerospace ground equipment Airmen train year-round to maintain more than 200 pieces of equipment worth approximately $14 million dollars. This equipment includes frequency converters, diesel and turbine engines, generators, hydraulic test stands, bomb lifts, heaters, flood lights, air conditioners, air compressors, self-generating nitrogen servicing carts, non-powered support equipment and maintenance information systems.

“Our Airmen make the equipment what it is, as far as functionality, and how well it is maintained,” Raabe said. “We have received comments and inspections stating that we have some of the best maintained equipment in the fleet.”

Aerospace ground equipment Airmen must inspect every piece of equipment in the shop a minimum of two times per year. Additionally, they are required to troubleshoot and service any equipment that is not functioning properly.

“Depending on an Airman’s skill-level and the complexity of the issue, troubleshooting and fixing a problem may take minutes, hours or longer,” said Raabe.

According to Senior Airman Robert Moser, an aerospace ground equipment specialist, there are many resources and a wealth of expertise in his shop.

“If we ever have any questions or run into a problem we cannot solve, someone in the shop will be able to help,” Moser said. “There is a lot of knowledge and experience here.”

According to the U. S. Air Force, Airmen work with the most advanced aircraft and equipment in the world. Since the U.S. Air Force presence spans the globe, these stinger Airmen could be assigned to support U.S. military aircraft anywhere from Travis Air Force Base, Nevada, to Osan Air Base, South Korea.

“It’s a great job,” said Moser. “It can be challenging at times depending on the complexity of the issue and what the issue is. You have to be good with your hands.”

Aerospace ground equipment specialists attend more than 80 days of training which awards 36 transferable college credits and gives them the knowledge, skills and abilities required to perform their job. Following technical school Airmen are able to attend specialized training for their functional area as well as on-the-job training.

An additional benefit of the ANG is that required military training can often apply credit hours to civilian college degree programs or contribute to earning a degree from the Community College of the Air Force.

“I recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in construction management,” Moser said. “The aerospace ground equipment field offers a great opportunity to go to school and work while gaining very transferrable knowledge and skills for any mechanical career you can get in to.”

The aerospace ground equipment specialist field is currently a critical needs career. Being deemed a critical needs career field means there is a higher need for recruitment into that job and select monetary bonuses may apply outside of the college tuition in the state of Ohio and Montgomery G.I. Bill that assist National Guard Members in pursuing a college education.

For more information about the aerospace ground equipment specialist career field or to learn more about opportunities at the 180FW, visit http://www.goang.com/.
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