Robins unit travels globe in support of warfighter

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
It has a different name and fewer numbers, but the Expeditionary Depot Maintenance Flight at Robins continues to fulfill a unique mission around the globe.

The flight is the reincarnation of the 653rd Combat Logistics Support Squadron, which inactivated last year after 42 years of traveling the world to perform aircraft battle damage repair. It was part of a move to shift from large squadrons to small flights to perform the same work.

The Robins flight, part of the 402nd Aircraft Maintenance Group, is responsible for battle damage repair of C-130s, F-15s and C-5s. When the 653rd was in operation, it performed the job with approximately 200 people, but now the flight does it with 56 people divided into five teams. Two teams specialize in F-15s, and three work on C-130s and C-5s.

They operate as sort of the fire department of aircraft maintenance, ready at all times to deploy within 24 hours notice to any location to get a damaged aircraft back into service.

"We can pretty much go anywhere at any time," said Tech Sgt. Sean Brown, crew chief of one of the F-15 teams.

They have special trailers called "war wagons" stationed at various locations around the globe with all of the tools needed to repair an aircraft. When they are called in for a job, an alert goes out and the closest "war wagon" is dispatched to meet them.

Each team is required to go through a training exercise once a year which is unique to the maintenance field. One of the C-130/C-5 teams recently went through the training at Warrior Air Base. In addition to practicing their repair skills, they also learn what to do in case of an enemy attack.

One of the scenarios included a mock chemical attack, in which the team members had to quickly put on protective gear and seek shelter, then emerge to check for signs of chemical agent, unexploded ordinance, additional damage to the aircraft, and anything else which might be required in a real-world situation.

"We put them through every possible scenario you can think of, from suicide bombers coming out to people getting kidnapped," Brown said.

Master Sgt. Bill Wheaton, who was helping monitor the exercise, said each member of a crew has a specialty area, such as sheet metal or electronics, but each has to be able to do everyone else's job because they never know what a team may encounter in the field.

"The biggest thing is to be a team player," he said.

Aircraft battle damage repair is their most important job, but they also do depot field work which a normal maintenance team in the field may not be able to do.