653rd CLSS ‘damage docs’ make house call to Africa

  • Published
  • By Wayne Crenshaw
  • 78 ABW/PA
The days of the 653rd Combat Logistics Squadron are numbered, but it is still getting unique and challenging assignments around the globe to repair major damage to aircraft.

In November a group of 10 from the squadron, which is scheduled to deactivate in August, traveled to Bamako, Mali in Africa to repair a MC-130P. The plane was parked at a public airport when the jet blast from a commercial airliner taxiing onto the runway caused severe damage to the tail section.

Ordinarily when the squadron deploys it works on aircraft at an established military base. But what made this trip unique was that the crew was at a location without logistics support.

"We lost a lot of our supply channels," said Master Sgt. James Ferry, a member of the group that deployed. "For us it was more of a waiting game to get the parts so that we could do our repair."

The plane was in Africa in support of an exercise being conducted by the Air Force's 8th Special Operations Squadron. The squadron uses CV-22s, the Air Force version of the V-22 Osprey used by the Marines. The tilt-rotor Osprey is one of the world's most unique aircraft, using tilt rotors that allow it to take off like a helicopter then fly like a plane. The MC-130P is used to refuel the Osprey in flight.

The Robins team deployed Nov. 2 and faced a tight deadline. The 8th SOS was flying out Nov. 22 with or without the damaged plane. Had the 8th SOS departed before the repair was finished, that would have left the crew at the airport with no military support at all.

The plane suffered significant damage to the rudder, rudder boost pack, horizontal stabilizer and both elevators. Making the repair itself wasn't especially challenging, members of the crew said. What slowed the mission down the most was waiting on parts. The crew also faced communication difficulties, including a language barrier and slow Internet service.

They had all the parts they needed by Nov. 17, and by Nov. 20 had completed the repairs and operational testing. The plane was then turned back over to the host unit and flown back the same day to its home base at Hurlburt Field, Fla. The Robins crew put in 1,856 man hours on the mission, including travel time.

Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Hudson, logistics supervision chief in the squadron, said he was pleased with how the group responded to the challenges.

"I think it went smooth," Chief Hudson said of the mission. "There were some obstacles to overcome but they were not major."

Members of the team included Sergeant Ferry, Tech. Sgt. Anthony Rios, Tech. Sgt. Donald McMullin, Tech. Sgt. Bobby Lynch, Tech. Sgt. Richard Sheppard, Staff Sgt. Currean Smith, Staff Sgt. Michael Reid, Staff Sgt. Wali Williams, Staff Sgt. Erik Edwards and Staff Sgt. Edgar Torres.

Chief Hudson was also pleased that even with the 653rd CLSS scheduled to deactivate, it is still doing important work.

"The short-notice challenges are welcome," he said. "We welcome them, but unfortunately we are going away."