HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --
The 311th Fighter Squadron deployed for a temporary duty assignment to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, April 22, 2019, for exercise Venom 19-01. The snowcapped mountains and lush, green grass of Utah replace the old scenery of white sands and open desert of Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico.
Over 200 personnel from the 311th FS and its associated units left on the TDY, in addition to 16 F-16 Fighting Falcons. Among these personnel, over 150 of them belong to the 311th Aircraft Maintenance Unit.
“We took the whole AMU from Holloman and moved it here,” said Tech. Sgt. Mitchel Moore, 311th AMU crew chief. “If we were to deploy it would be the same thing -- get your stuff, let’s go and see how good it does. How good can we pick up our AMU and move it to a new location and still perform the mission like we do at home?”
The 311th AMU deployed 35 personnel early on April 17, to set up their work centers and to unload over 500 single issue items that total $1.2 million in assets, allowing them to operate at the same pace and capacity as they do at home station.
“This prepares us for a real world deployment,” said Staff Sgt. Dustin Phillips, 311th AMU crew chief. “This is teaching (new Airmen) what to expect when you move from location to location and have to keep normal operations.”
Col. Timmy Harbor, 49th Maintenance Group commander, visited the 311th AMU’s temporary setup, April 25, to orient himself with the maintenance operations and integrate with his Airmen.
“Over the last three days they haven’t missed any (flights),” said Harbor. “Home station averages are really good too; the last three days have been better than they’ve done at home station, on average, which is really impressive.”
Holloman’s maintainers work around the clock to ensure the 311th FS F-16’s are mission ready for the next day’s flights. Over 46 pilots have been supported by dissimilar combat training with the F-35 Lightning II as a result of their hard work and tenacity.
“Our F-16 units at Holloman don’t deploy,” said Harbor. “Especially for the younger Airmen, it’s a good experience to learn how to deploy to a different location. Pack up, send the jets out, catch the jets, then unpack and start producing sorties in 24 hours -- something that’s key in the Air Force, to be expeditionary.”
This type of training is essential in ensuring the lethality of Holloman’s maintainers, as many will be assigned to operational units for their next assignment.
“A lot of us go to Korea straight after this and it’s an actual deployable unit,” said Phillips. “There’s a few people here where this is their first TDY, and it gets them used to it. If they have to deploy like this, they know what to expect.”
In addition to the mission-essential training, TDY’s provide a boost in morale and a change of scenery from the high deserts of southern New Mexico.
“It gives them perspective, it opens their eyes to see what other opportunities are out there if they want to keep a career in the Air Force,” said Harbor. “There’s plenty of other experiences and aircraft out there for them to (work with). It seems like morale is very high, many of our maintainers are getting to have incentive flights, which is also good for the morale.”
Exercise Venom 19-01 is expected to last until late next week. Until then, Holloman’s maintainers remain ready to continue fueling the fight.