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Despite adversity, maintainers keep Base X aircraft ready to fight

Members of the 391st Fighter Squadron perform safety checks for a combat sortie Feb. 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Aircrews endured added stress in the simulated combat environment of the Sharpshooter 13-2 exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

Members of the 391st Fighter Squadron perform safety checks for a combat sortie Feb. 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Aircrews endured added stress in the simulated combat environment of the Sharpshooter 13-2 exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Pate, 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, speaks with the pilot while performing pre-flight checks Feb. 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Ground crews worked in Mission Oriented Protective Posture or MOPP gear while participating in Sharpshooter 13-2. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Pate, 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, speaks with the pilot while performing pre-flight checks Feb. 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. Ground crews worked in Mission Oriented Protective Posture or MOPP gear while participating in Sharpshooter 13-2. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

Ground crew members from the 391st Fighter Squadron take shelter inside a tent in preparation for a simulated attack Feb. 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. They battled icy winds, single digit temperatures, numerous mechanical problems and issues while wearing extra gear and still made the mission happen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

Ground crew members from the 391st Fighter Squadron take shelter inside a tent in preparation for a simulated attack Feb. 14, 2013, at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. They battled icy winds, single digit temperatures, numerous mechanical problems and issues while wearing extra gear and still made the mission happen. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- Strike Eagles roared off the flight line while maintainers were huddled inside bunkers wearing Mission Oriented Protective Posture or MOPP gear.

These brave men and women battle icy winds, single digit temperatures, numerous mechanical problems and issues wearing extra gear and still make the mission happen.

"As maintainers we are really at the mercy of the weather," said Senior Airman Derek Elliott, 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician. "It does make things a bit tougher but we just slow down and work efficiently to ensure the safety of aircrew personnel so they can take the fight to the enemy.

"We have been lucky so far that there haven't been any icy conditions which cause major problems for both aircraft and people safety," he continued.

Maintainers know all too well how the weather here can change in seconds but trust evaluators to always think of safety first.

"Performing our job while in MOPP gear is difficult but the evaluators understand safety is most important and don't mess with us until the jets are in the air," said Elliott. "The exercise may be pretend but there's nothing pretend about getting these aircraft off the ground."

During the Sharpshooter 13-2 exercise maintainers understand just how important their actions are to the mission success.

"Our job is to get these jets in the air and we work as hard as possible to do that every day," said Airman 1st Class Jacob Pate, 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. "No matter what the evaluators throw at us, we will complete the mission."

Of course, the secret they do not want evaluators to know is while they complete the mission, some really enjoy having to wear the extra gear.

"I'm actually glad we are doing the exercise during the winter and spring because to have all this gear on in the summer would be awful," said Elliott. "This stuff really helps keep the cold wind off us while we work and I don't mind being in it that much."

Regardless of what gear they had on, maintainers generated almost every aircraft with only a few being grounded for mechanical issues as opposed to evaluator scenarios.

"Normally we help each other out and take care of smaller tasks while the jets are flying," said Pate. "However, since we are participating in an exercise we spend a lot of our down time in a gas mask.

"Personally, I would rather be working a normal shift but I understand the importance of the exercises and am happy to participate."





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