Maintainers: Keeping Spirits up overseas

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- Nearly two decades ago, the B-2 Spirit deployed overseas for the first time from Whiteman Air Force Base (AFB), Missouri. Its destination: Andersen AFB, Guam.

Upon its initial arrival, a crew assigned to the 509th Bomb Wing was present to meet the bomber. Accompanying the aircraft then, and on each deployment since 1998, was a team of Airmen with an array of specialties.

In support of the U.S. Strategic Command Bomber Assurance and Deterrence mission, over 20 different shops under the 509th and 131st Maintenance Group (MXG) provided Airmen who embraced long days and demanding workloads.

Charged with fixing any issues that arise with the aircraft, the maintenance Airmen, or maintainers, who deploy with the B-2 Spirit undertake any tasks that fall within their domain.

“Maintenance checks are done on a daily basis,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Elijah Fleming, a 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace maintenance craftsman. “We split the day into 12-hour shifts, but if something breaks on our jet, our objective is to fix the problem so the aircraft is safe and reliable for the pilots.”

Prior to each generation of the bomber, maintainers provide pre-flight checks to ensure the safe and successful launch of the aircraft. Upon its return, each section would then hasten to service the aircraft as needed and make sure all systems were functioning correctly.

“We are constantly checking vital components and looking over the aircraft for any discrepancies,” added Fleming. “We check over multiple components ranging from the tires to the engine inlets and exhausts.”

As a crew chief, avionics specialist or a hydraulics specialist, each Airman plays his or her individual role on the flightline. Even more impressive is how the members within each section pull together to make certain each sortie begins and ends with sound maintenance.

“The overall mission of the maintenance group is to generate and sustain aircraft, munitions, and equipment in support of operational requirements,” said Capt. Christopher L. Clark, the 509th Maintenance Squadron operations officer.

“In a deployed environment things like shift schedules, climate, and infrastructure may be a little different, but our maintainers are the best at what they do, and they quickly adapt to ensure mission success,” added Clark.

Working on the world’s premier bomber has its advantages. Other than being able to say they work on a $2.2 billion aircraft, these Airmen get experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives.

“My favorite part of the job would have to be when you see the aircraft take off,” remarked Fleming. “There’s a great feeling of accomplishment in knowing you played a major role in getting the aircraft off of the ground and safely in the air.”