When a group of people is considered to be some of the best in the Air Force at what they do, having new equipment added to their arsenal is a chance to show their skills. The men and women in the 56th Equipment Maintenance Squadron Air Ground Equipment Flight are preparing to roll up their sleeves and do just that.
The Airmen of AGE flight are gearing up to receive new ground support equipment for the F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter due to arrive soon at Luke. With the receipt of the new equipment will come a slew of new procedures, rules and regulations concerning the use of the items.
“We’ll be receiving new equipment, but only what is designated for the jet will be used on the F-35, per Lockheed Martin’s direction,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Dodd, 56th EMS AGE assistant section leader. “Therefore, we will divide the line between the way we used to do business and the new way we will do business. It’s going to be a big learning curve for everybody.”
The F-16 program will be a completely separate program, not just in equipment but in training and software as well. While the AGE Airmen have skills and knowledge on equipment for the F-16, they will receive new training on the F-35 equipment. Air Force field training detachments will arrive to help achieve this training goal. This will stack on top of their current knowledge since they will still be required to service the F-16s remaining at Luke.
“It’s going to be like learning my job all over again,” said Senior Airman Jared Johnson, AGE journeyman. “I’m going to have to relearn things like starting up some of the equipment, running and troubleshooting it. But being in the military you have to expect changes like that.”
From senior leaders to ground-level workers, the Airmen in the AGE shop appear to be anticipating a favorable transition.
“We will be working on a more advanced weapon system, but still working in the same support capacity,” said Tech. Sgt. Ralph Debelius, AGE craftsman. “It will be an opportunity to develop increased troubleshooting skills in the technicians. It will force my technicians to improvise and be better at what they do.”
With any new equipment, there will be some growing pains while the AGE Airmen adapt to the new processes and items that will be flowing into their shop. But they appear to be up for the challenge.
“Our motto is, ‘The best never rest,’ and that’s what we’ll do,” Dodd said.