ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE Ga. --
Col. Christopher Sage knows “Success here equals success there.” That’s why he came "here."
A seasoned fighter pilot, Sage is fully appreciative of having a fine-tuned jet to fly. And since taking the helm of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C., in July, he has wanted to personally acknowledge the people who provide war-ready F-15s to his team. So on Nov. 30, the veteran flier provided a rarity for the Warner Robins Air Logistics Complex – an aircraft scheduled for programmed depot maintenance flown in personally by an operational wing commander.
“When I laid out my priorities shortly after taking command, visiting WR-ALC was on the short list of ‘must dos’ during the first few months,” Sage said. “I have delivered and picked up F-15Es in the past, and therefore was keenly aware of how critical the PDM process is to the health of the F-15E fleet at Seymour Johnson AFB. My goal was to make contact with the WR-ALC team and thank them for the important work they perform.
“It is important for an operational wing commander to get out from behind his desk and go meet the Airmen who support us and our mission on a daily basis,” he said.
Brig. Gen. John Kubinec, WR-ALC commander, said the visit was not only indicative of the positive relationship the complex has built with the warfighter, but also a tremendous opportunity for both sides to share and learn from each other.
“To have a wing commander take the time out to come down here and bring an aircraft is important,” Kubinec said. “I’d like every aircrew member that comes here to spend some time, to see what we do and communicate with us.”
Kubinec said such visits allow operational partners to gain a greater understanding of the WR-ALC mission while meeting and interacting with the people who keep their aircraft flying.
“We like to think of ourselves as the supporting command for readiness. To have that readiness, it takes the full enterprise –the supply chain, depot-level maintenance – the whole iceberg. We don’t tell that story enough,” Kubinec told Sage during a briefing in an F-15 hangar.
Sage said his visit could only serve to strengthen an already good working relationship between the fighter wing and the logistics complex.
“The feedback I received from the 4th FW maintainers is that the relationship is stronger than it has been in years,” Sage said. “Relationships matter, and they take effort. We will continue to put significant effort into strengthening these bonds.”
Leaving North Carolina on a stormy day in the Southeast, Sage flew his F-15E into the dark, overcast airspace over Robins at 1:36 p.m. He was accompanied by Maj. Brian Privette, his executive officer. Upon landing, he was greeted first by Kubinec, then by Col. Jeffrey Martin, commander, 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group.
Martin led Sage through a tour of the 561st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's F-15 PDM operation. The tour included visit to an “Eagle Country” hangar for an F-15 PDM briefing, a look at the canopy seal longeron being repaired here, and a close-up of the steps of PDM and the tools utilized.
Sage was briefed on implementation of the Art of the Possible in the 402nd AMXG. The visitor and members of the complex maintenance group discussed how the 402nd can utilize AoP into more than just the aircraft production line.
A memorable moment for the veteran pilot was having a photograph taken in front of an F-15 stripped down to a “cigar” – de-painted and de-winged for PDM.
Sage also toured Bldg. 125 where Martin showed Sage the size and scope of the C-5 maintenance hangar and mission operation.
“This visit was very educational for me and my team,” Sage said. “The focus on process improvement via the Art of the Possible methodology is impressive. The ALC is focused on implementing a deliberate process that is showing results.
“It was fascinating to see how many miles an F-15E travels during the PDM process. It was also amazing to see how far the Strike Eagle is stripped down before it is reassembled,” he said.
Martin said an F-15 PDM typically takes 136 days these days. The 561st is aiming to hit a goal of 88 days. Unexpected challenges to the schedule come with the mission territory, especially considering the average age of an Eagle being worked here is 20 years.
“I was aware that the WR-ALC had significant challenges with supply availability and unexpected F-15E structural challenges regarding the canopy seal longerons,” Sage said. “I wanted to get a firsthand look and talk to the teams that are tackling these issues."
Martin deemed the visit a success.
“It was a great warfighter relations event,” he said. “To be able to show what we do here in F-15 PDM – to increase our ability to communicate the status of our airplanes – it helps us to engage with the warfighter and link some of the structural things happening with the airplane to the operational world.
“It also allows our people to interact with people from an operational unit; allows our people to show what we do here and the effect it has on the mission and our warfighters. This allows our people to put a face to our operational partner,” Martin said.
“It’s important for our people to spend time with the warfighter,” Kubinec said. “We can’t spend enough time with the warfighter. We want our senior staff and maintenance people to spend time with the warfighter. We want our people to hear how important their mission is and that what we do leads to the warfighter’s success.”
Sage has definitely been “there” himself. Through an assortment of operational, training and staff tours with both the Navy and the Air Force, Sage has amassed more than 4,200 flight hours in his 22-year career. More than 1,100 of those hours were flown in combat as an operational fighter pilot in Operations Northern Watch, Deliberate Forge, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. He also served as a Naval flight instructor while stationed aboard NAS Whiting Field.
As commander of the 4th FW, Sage has charge of one of the largest fighter wings in the U.S. Air Force. The wing has nearly 6,000 Airmen and civilians and is home to 94 F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft assigned to two operational and two training fighter squadrons. Those units fly more than 12,000 sorties and 21,000 hours per year.
His latest assignment has allowed Sage the chance to soar again by providing him the occasional opportunity to climb back into the cockpit of a fighter jet.
Kubinec called a visit by such an experienced pilot and the commander of a fighter wing “invaluable,” especially since there is much more to the logistics and maintenance business than meets the eye.
“It is amazing the enterprise it takes to deliver rapid, effective affordable combat power,” the general told Sage. “That is why it is great having you here to see all that goes into making the F-15 you flew in today air worthy. This is the cool stuff, what our guys work here.”
Kubinec wanted his guest to specifically observe the high caliber of professionals getting the job done at WR-ALC.
“The great Americans you met here might wear a different outfit – some may be in shorts and a T-shirt – but, man, they work hard. It means a lot for you to come down and see them. When you boil it all down, these are patriots and they care about what you do,” the general said.
Sage was delighted with an unofficial slogan that has taken hold at Robins.
“I love the phrase!” he said. “'Success here equals success there’ works well at the 4th Fighter Wing as well. Our mission is ‘To Deploy Strike Eagle Airpower -- Anytime, Anywhere.’ We do this by ensuring our Airmen are successfully trained for combat and our aircraft are mechanically ready to sustain a six or seven month deployment."
The fighter wing commander wants to make more visits to the complex.
“I would love to come back again -- to see the progress made on improving the PDM timeline -- as your team works hard to meet the 88 day Strike Eagle goal,” Sage said. “I have also invited the WR-ALC team up to Seymour Johnson to see operations at the tip of the spear.
“F-15E sustainment is about having a ‘one team, one fight’ mentality, from the 4th Fighter Wing aircrew and maintainers to the patriots on the PDM line,” Sage said. “I look forward to the great work we will do together.