SOUTHWEST ASIA – When thousands of maintenance troops are called to serve in Southwest Asia, it takes the work of skilled Airmen to get them trained, processed and ready to fight. Getting them into the theater of operations and back home, however, is a task for the specialized few; enter the deployed maintenance unit deployment manager.
UDMs deployed here are responsible for coordinating travel, processing in- and outbound deployers and keeping commanders informed on available manpower to get the mission done. Master Sgt. Renee Hess and Martin Brown – both experienced managers – keep the maintenance flowing as UDMs for the 379th Expeditionary Maintenance Group in three simple ways.
“First, we tell leadership when a member is arriving, when a member is leaving, and how,” said Hess, who employs three primary methods to ferry Airmen into the area of responsibility: the rotator freedom bird, commercial contracted aircraft, and organic gray tail travel. “Second, we schedule commercial travel when member arrives back to the US, and finally we keep track of how many people are in the MXG and give manpower numbers to the group and subordinate commanders.”
Many stateside UDMs operate under an additional duty status, performing processing work for deployers in addition to regular duties. Those assigned here must have a minimum of six months experience as a primary UDM, not only because their expertise is needed to get the job done, but also because of the high volume. Hess and Brown have already processed hundreds of maintainers in and out of the group since arriving within the past four months.
“Numbers range from 50s to 500s per month, depending on the month,” said Hess, a UDM deployed from the 20th Component Maintenance Squadron, Shaw AFB, S.C. “In April we had more than 500 personnel rotate in, and more than 500 rotate out.”
Brown said the work here is not only higher volume but has a broader reach than stateside UDM work.
“First, we don’t deploy from stateside the amount (of people) as we do here,” said Brown, who has been the UDM at the 355th Emergency Medical Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz., for the past three years. “We move at least 80 percent more than at home, monthly. The process works the same, but as a home station UDM we don’t see the whole process as we do here. To say we have 10 steps to redeploy someone, but at home we would only work three of the 10 steps.”
Those steps require a strong attention to detail, something both Hess and Brown credit as essential to UDM work.
“We are doing the work of our logies and installation personnel readiness troops,” Brown said. “This is a very unique slot because of all the detail that is put in to ensure personnel redeploy.”
“We must have a keen eye and meticulous attention to detail,” Hess said. “Know the people and always be one step ahead. Know the processes and have good networking at the deployed location as well as with home stations.”
That focus and attention to detail, is one reason Hess loves the job.
“It keeps me busy, and I’m very customer service oriented,” Hess said. “It’s challenging, and there is something new to learn every day.”
Brown said he loved the impact.
“First, I like knowing that I have a key role in redeploying the member back to their loved ones,” he said. “Second, receiving a ‘thank you’ or a smile from the member after an itinerary is given out – that’s when you know you’ve done your job.”