Airmen of the night

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Autumn Vogt
  • 49th Wing Public Affairs

When the sun has set and any bright color remaining in the southern New Mexico sky has left, few people stay awake.

While the streets are practically empty, there are a select few Airmen awake and turning the gears of the 49th Wing mission. This series will highlights the individuals who regularly follow the “service before self” Air Force core value by doing their job while others are asleep in the comforts of their home.

This rings true for the F-16 Viper maintainers here, where part of the base mission is to train operationally - ready F-16 aircrew.

The 49th Maintenance Group Quality Assurance office has round-the-clock operations, ensuring the maintenance on jets are up to standard and safety procedures are being followed.

"We evaluate, educate and demonstrate," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Tran, 49th MXG QA inspector. "We (accomplish this by) inspecting the quality of maintenance going on the flightline."

The individuals chosen for QA have been in the maintenance career field for many years and their knowledge on the flightline makes their input invaluable to Airmen with less experience.

"I've been in maintenance for 14 years and doing this for one," said Tech. Sgt. Jaguar Philpot, 49th MXG QA inspector. "It is beneficial to know what's going on so you can adequately inspect and guide Airmen, because we're here to educate and train too."

With a large number of Airmen regularly joining the maintenance career field, ensuring new Airmen are provided structured and correct guidance is essential.

"We're getting a lot of new Airmen these days and it's hard to find time to train those folks," said Tran. "(While we inspect) we train and show them how to do something if they're doing it wrong."

The fighter pilots in training here would not be able to graduate without accomplishing night flying, but when that is not occurring, most of the more significant jet maintenance issues get solved and repaired at night.

"We have the same 24-hour coverage as the maintainers," said Philpot. "The biggest difference between the day and night shift, during the normal schedule, is most of the flying is done on the day shift. So as an inspector we don't really get a lot of maintenance work as opposed to swing shift, when most the jets are down and everybody is going through the pilot reported discrepancies."

The 24-hour schedule enables the base mission to run smoothly, ensuring F-16 aircrew are receiving training to become mission ready.

"Our main mission at Holloman is to get pilots ready so they can be sent off to deployed locations," said Philpot. "We've got to keep training pilots and keep making sure the maintenance done on the aircraft is of the highest quality so America's fighting capabilities are prepared."