97 AMXS establishes service-wide foundation for KC-46 maintenance

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cody Dowell
  • Altus Air Force Base Public Affairs

Enlisted maintainers from the 514th Air Mobility Wing, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J, received on-the-job training alongside experienced KC-46 Pegasus maintainers of the 97th Air Mobility Wing. This was part of the 714th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 605th AMXS’s effort to prepare themselves to receive their initial KC-46 aircraft.

The Altus AFB KC-46 maintenance team started training JB MDL’s initial KC-46 maintainer’s cadre back in March, 2021. The group from the 514th AMW are comprised of active duty and reservists from multiple career fields who also attend an academic course ranging from taught by Boeing. This course includes an additional 30 day stay afterwards for hands-on training by the “A-Team.”

“We’re helping stand up another initial cadre of successful maintainers from another base. We will bring them up to speed and teach them the lessons we’ve learned that have taken us years to understand,” said Donnie Obreiter, 97th AMXS KC-46 maintenance flight chief. “They're going to leave here proficient and ready to help field the KC-46. It helps keep our maintainers to stay as proficient as possible as well because what better way to remain proficient than to teach people, just like our aircrew instructors. Providing this training in the big scheme of things takes a load off the enterprise and kind of makes us the unofficial 46 maintenance instructors.”

The training of new enterprise-wide KC-46 maintenance personnel at Altus was not a part of the initial program stand-up plan. However, according to O’Breiter the KC-46 sustainment program has proven to be extremely successful and is looked to by other units when planning their stand-ups.

“It’s been awesome working with the A-Team,” said Senior Airman Ryan Smolinski, 714th AMS avionics journeyman. “Some have 20 plus years of experience working on many different airframes. It's just been excellent since a lot of us have only been in four or five years and we're just getting a ton of access to their information. We've gotten a lot of tips and tricks that we wouldn't have found in a classroom environment.”

By November, a total of 13 academic and hands-on classes will have been taught at Mobility’s Hometown, covering seven different career fields, to include the crew chiefs, electrical and environmental systems, hydraulics, communications, navigation, avionics, and jet engines career fields.

“The main takeaway maintainers should have after coming here is a common knowledge of the aircraft, how it operates, and more or less the fundamentals of how to change and locate components,” said Josh Ellison, 97th AMXS hydroponics specialist. “Having this experience builds a good relationship. We troubleshoot via email across the states with each other. Actually having maintainers come here that have worked with these drogues more than we have is great. I've actually learned a lot from them as far as that system goes, so it's been beneficial for everyone.”                                                                                                                                                                        
Additional training courses and follow-up hands-on training for other JB MDL maintainers are scheduled to continue into the summer. JB MDL is the fourth base the 97th AMW helped instruct to include Pease AFB, N.H., Tinker AFB, and Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. 

“The benefit of helping other units stand up is we get to work through this together,” said Obreiter. “Now, granted, we're going to teach them the lessons learned, the things we had to learn the hard way. They're going to provide feedback to us and we are going to work this airframe as a village, instead of us all trying to figure things out independently. It adds continuity to the program and it ties all the maintenance units together from across the country now, so now we're all on the same page. We're all working together in the same direction and it just couldn't be done in a better way.”