Army units in Germany honored for maintenance excellence
Two U.S. Army Europe units are in the running for Defense Department level awards after being named the Army’s best for aviation maintenance in the small and large unit categories.
The Combat Maneuver Training Center Aviation Flight Detachment in Hohenfels and Maintenance Activity, Kaiserslautern, won the Army Chief of Staff’s Award for Maintenance Excellence for small and large units, respectively. The units pick up the award June 11.
The units first won at the U.S. Army Europe level, and pick up those awards May 27. Defense Department winners will be announced in October.
Judging teams evaluate the units in 16 areas of maintenance, including training, storage of hazardous materials, supply and inventory accountability and safety, according to Ramon Hernandez, manager of the U.S. Army Europe Army Maintenance Excellence Award Program.
Although the Aviation Flight Detachment flies and maintains 14 Vietnam-era UH-1 Huey helicopters — the only ones remaining in the U.S. Army Europe inventory — it also boasts the Army’s only fully automated system for flight logs and manuals, according to Chief Warrant Officer 4 Douglas Hettler, aviation maintenance officer for the unit.
Hettler said it was the detachment’s automation that seemed to impress the judges most.
“I would say this is a big part of why we won [at the Army level],” Hettler said. “The automated system has saved money, because we don’t have to use card stock [maintenance logs] anymore and it’s saved a lot of man-hours by reducing all the paperwork.”
By creating electronic versions of Army regulations and manuals that must be stored on site, the unit was able to stop storing about 180 manuals, said Archie Smith, site supervisor for DynCorps, an aviation services contractor. Each of the helicopters is designated a laptop with all of the manuals and regulations, as well as history of all maintenance for the aircraft. Other workstations are set up in the hangar and in offices for pilots, crew chiefs and maintenance crews to use, Smith said.
“The plan was to keep this very basic,” Smith said. “We had some problems when we initially fielded the system [in 1998], but now we all see that automation is the only way to go.”
Maintenance Activity, Kaiserslautern earned high marks from Army judges for its safety program and International Standard Organization certification, according to Gerd Sprissler, quality management representative for the unit.
The activity performs maintenance on everything from Humvees to tanks for units in the 21st Theater Support Command.
The unit also conducts a reconstitution mission for the 1st Infantry Division and 1st Armored Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Vehicles that can’t be repaired in theater are shipped to Kaiserslautern for major repairs and returned to the mission within 100 days, Sprissler said.
He said the first-ever Army level win gives members of the unit bragging rights.
“Everybody is proud that we’ve gone this far,” Sprissler said. “We have won a couple of times at the Army Europe level, but this is the first time we have gone this far. We are known now outside of the Kaiserslautern area, and I think this win will contribute to even more shop successes.”
Although the units won in different categories at the Army level, they compete against each other in the medium category at the Department of Defense level because requirements for the number of personnel assigned are different, according to Hernandez.