Air Force squadron integral part of supplying fight against Islamic State
By CHRIS CHURCH | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 23, 2017
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION IN SOUTHWEST ASIA — Even if you’ve changed a few tires in your life, you’ve probably never changed a tire quite like this. There’s a massive difference between the ones on a car and those on a C-17 Globemaster III cargo jet.
Each tire is extremely heavy, said Staff Sgt. Carlos Borges, a crew chief with the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, or EAMS. The tires weigh about 390 pounds, officials said, and if lifting equipment like a tire dolly isn't available, a small crew of maintainers have to lift the tire themselves.
The 5th EAMS maintenance unit conducts these tire changes on a routine basis. The group is responsible for keeping mission-ready C-17 Globemasters, which deliver vital supplies throughout the U.S. Air Forces Central Command area of responsibility.
Thanks to their size, the C-17s can transport everything from personnel and small equipment to armored vehicles and heavy machinery.
The cargo jets belonging to a tenant unit at the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing’s location, have flown an average of 2,500 sorties a year from the wing’s flight line in Southwest Asia. These sorties have moved 180,000 personnel and 80,000 tons of cargo.
Over the past couple of years, the C-17s and the 386th Wing’s C-130s have provided extensive support in the fight to defeat the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
“Aircraft maintenance is a huge part,” said Lt. Col. Adeleke Ekundayo, 5th EAMS commander. “Think of it as the blood in the veins for our jets.”
For Borges and more than 60 other maintenance personnel in the squadron, that means a lot of heavy lifting and tough work to keep the “blood” flowing.
Fifth EAMS conducts about 8,000 maintenance actions a year on C-17s, Ekundayo said.
Team cohesion stands out on the flight line among 5th EAMS personnel, who work together to get planes back in the air. Even small tasks such as changing aircraft tires requires teamwork.
In his first week on deployment, Borges had already conducted five changes. His predecessor changed more than 90 tires in six months.
Asked whether he’d ever complain about changing a car tire again, Borges' answer was quite simple: “Oh, hell no!”