Round-the-clock missions keep Bagram airmen busy at all hours
December 12, 2015
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — As America’s only fighter squadron in Afghanistan continues round-the-clock patrols, maintenance crews work long hours to keep aircraft aloft.
“We have to have crews ready to go all the time,” said Tech. Sgt. Lee Fortin, an Air Force reservist who has worked in aircraft maintenance since the 1980s. Crews with the 388th Fighter Wing’s 421st Fighter Squadron often work late into the night under the light of headlamps to conduct the never-ending task of keeping F-16 Fighting Falcons airworthy.
The squadron keeps at least two, and often more, of its F-16s in the air at all times.
The demands of operating in a combat zone are higher than when flying at home at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Fortin said.
“Sometimes, we get spread kind of thin, dealing with so many things out here,” he said. “In a war zone, we can’t let things wait. Here, we have to have everything on line all the time.”
Many of the greatest maintenance challenges arise from the ever more complex computer systems being used, even in aging airframes like that of the F-16, said Master Sgt. Darrin Sather, a weapons superintendent.
“New aircraft are almost too smart for themselves,” he said. “There are often many avionics issues.”