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Honduran and U.S. Airmen achieve interoperability milestone by working together

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. James Stewart
  • 621st Contingency Response Wing

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Honduran maintenance and fuels airmen work together for the first time to refuel aircraft.

Tech. Sgt. Mateo Escareno can hardly restrain the satisfied grin on his face. "This is exactly what we are here to accomplish," he says as his head nods positively. Tech. Sgt. Escareno is an Air Adviser for the 571st Mobility Support Advisory Squadron; he's been in Honduras since the middle of July. Escareno is also a crew chief and he's been working with other Honduran crew chiefs sharing ideas about aircraft maintenance. He's beaming today because what he is watching on the flight line at Hernan Acosta Mejia Air Force Base is a milestone for his mission and his Honduran crew chief counter parts.

"We've all been working together to bring the aircraft maintenance and fuels specialties to the table," say Tech. Sgt. Filiberto Rodriguez, a Fuels Technician with the 571st MSAS. "I've been working together with the Honduran fuels guys and Escareno and his team have been sharing ideas with the maintenance guys."

At first the two groups were working independently of one another. "That's the way we have always been," remarks Sub-official II Maestro Enrique Hernandez-Sanchez, a helicopter mechanic and section leader for the Honduran Air Force. "We've worked this way from generation to generation, the maintenance crews don't fuel the aircraft."

Fueling the aircraft was the sole responsibility of the fuels technician. One man used to handle the job of fueling the aircraft. "That's what worked best for the Hondurans," Rodriguez says. "But they got the idea to work together by sharing experiences with us. They asked us how we fuel our aircraft. They came up with some ideas they wanted to implement based on what we shared. As an Air Adviser I'm really excited to see them work together."

Prior to now the fuels technician would handle all of the fueling responsibilities: grounding the truck, pumping the fuel, monitoring the pressure, everything. According to both Escareno and Rodriguez, their Honduran associates were interested in the safety implications of one man handling refueling aircraft. As a team the Hondurans understood if something went wrong the entire group could rapidly respond to the incident rather than risk one man being hurt or loosing valuable assets.

In the United States Air Force the fuels technician stays with the fuel truck and monitors the refueling while the crew chief stays with the aircraft monitoring the fueling on the opposite end. It is every bit a team effort.

"Interoperability is important to us and it is great to see the Hondurans embrace the concepts and really run with it," mentions Escareno. "They are really promoting a system where they can work together and it's great to be part of that."

Sub-official Hernandez and Auxiliary Jose Anibal Espinal are the first two Hondurans to run through the new fueling process. Hernandez stands ready at his helicopter and Espinal at the fuel truck. Both men clutch a checklist in their hand containing the steps for the new process. The Hondurans created the checklist while working with their U.S. counterparts. "This new checklist increases our communication and makes safety a top priority," says Hernandez. "It's a benefit for future maintainers and I'm proud to be a part of creating this process."

Rodriguez lent his experiences to the Hondurans while they developed their new checklist for the fueling process. "This is what success feels like. My Honduran partners are implementing their ideas and developing new tools that they have come up with to amplify their capabilities."

Escareno and Rodriguez watches the Hondurans perform the fueling operation. Every once in a while the Hondurans paused to discuss the checklist with each other to iron out the details. In the end they performed three aircraft fueling dry runs.

"These guys have been working hard to promote a system where they can work together," says Escareno. "And that makes me smile."

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