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Maintainers: Keeping Spirits up overseas

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Elijah Fleming, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, walks on top of the B-2 Spirit aircraft while performing post-flight inspections after a local training at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 17, 2017. Close to 200 Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed to Andersen AFB, in support of U.S. Strategic Command Bomber and Deterrence missions. USSTRATCOM bomber missions familiarize aircrew with airbases and operations in different Geographic Combatant Commands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Elijah Fleming, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, walks on top of the B-2 Spirit aircraft while performing post-flight inspections after a local training at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 17, 2017. Close to 200 Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed to Andersen AFB, in support of U.S. Strategic Command Bomber and Deterrence missions. USSTRATCOM bomber missions familiarize aircrew with airbases and operations in different Geographic Combatant Commands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Andy M. Kin)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dez Starkes (left) and Senior Airman Hayden Thayer, both crew chiefs assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, communicate pre-flight instructions with a B-2 Spirit pilot prior to takeoff at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017. U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) units regularly conduct training with and in support of the Geographic Combatant Commands. USSTRATCOM, through its global strike assets, helps maintain global stability and security while enabling units to become familiar with operations in different regions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dez Starkes (left) and Senior Airman Hayden Thayer, both crew chiefs assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, communicate pre-flight instructions with a B-2 Spirit pilot prior to takeoff at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017. U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) units regularly conduct training with and in support of the Geographic Combatant Commands. USSTRATCOM, through its global strike assets, helps maintain global stability and security while enabling units to become familiar with operations in different regions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dez Starkes, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, signals to the mission commander that he is clear and free to move forward at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017. Strategic bomber missions enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to any potential crisis or challenge across the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dez Starkes, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, signals to the mission commander that he is clear and free to move forward at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017. Strategic bomber missions enhance the readiness and training necessary to respond to any potential crisis or challenge across the globe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Hayden Thayer, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, marshals a B-2 Spirit to the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017. Bomber missions enable crews to maintain a high state of readiness and proficiency, and validate our always-ready global strike capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Hayden Thayer, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, marshals a B-2 Spirit to the flightline at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017. Bomber missions enable crews to maintain a high state of readiness and proficiency, and validate our always-ready global strike capability. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jazmin Smith)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Richard Huartson, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, walks the fire extinguisher off the parkway prior to a U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit aircraft takeoff at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017. Close to 200 Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed to Andersen AFB, in support of U.S. Strategic Command Bomber and Deterrence missions. USSTRATCOM bomber missions familiarize aircrew with airbases and operations in different Geographic Combatant Commands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy M. Kin)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Richard Huartson, a crew chief assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, walks the fire extinguisher off the parkway prior to a U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit aircraft takeoff at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Jan. 12, 2017. Close to 200 Airmen from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., and Barksdale Air Force Base, La., deployed to Andersen AFB, in support of U.S. Strategic Command Bomber and Deterrence missions. USSTRATCOM bomber missions familiarize aircrew with airbases and operations in different Geographic Combatant Commands. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Andy M. Kin)

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.”