Maintaining the machine: Behind-the-scene Airmen make it happen

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- In today's world, keeping machines in good working condition is no small feat. Even seemingly simple tasks are complicated with global technology in the 20th century.

Most mechanical tasks, small and large, require a professional with extensive classroom training, on-the-job training, experience and a wall papered with degrees and certifications.

Imagine working on a machine that can fly non-stop around the world, has stealth technology, can drop a bomb on a dime, takes a crew of two to operate and is worth $2.2 billion. If that is not enough, it has a mission to defend the U.S., its citizens and U.S. allies.

This is the responsibility that lies with the 509th Maintenance Group Airmen.

Like any mechanic, B-2 aircraft maintainers must undergo extensive classroom and on-the-job training and be certified in many different aspects depending on the airframe they are working on.

However, unlike any other mechanics, B-2 maintainers are responsible for the lives of thousands. The B-2 Stealth Bomber and pilot performs flawlessly because the United States Air Force has hand-picked a group men and women and charged them with caring for the world's most premier Stealth Bomber. This is why the maintainers of the B-2 are hailed as the best at what they do. Without their precision, technical knowledge, motivation and desire the B-2 would not be the machine it is today.

Supporting those who maintain the B-2 are the Airmen of the 509th Maintenance Operations Squadron. Some of that support is provided by the Maintenance Operations Center and the Maintenance Training Flight, both part of the 509th Maintenance Operations Squadron.

509th Maintenance Operations Center

The mission of the MOC is to provide accurate and timely reporting of information and coordination of resources in support of aircraft maintenance for the 509th Bomb Wing. 

"The MOC monitors and coordinates sortie production, maintenance production and execution of flying and maintenance schedules," said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Thaut, MOC superintendent. "We also maintain visibility of fleet health indicators such as aircraft status and low observabilty condition and report that information to wing leadership and Air Combat Command." 

The MOC also acts as an information hub for all B-2 and specific T-38 flight line activities.

"Some of the functions we perform are notifying and updating the flight line and wing leadership of ground emergencies and weather conditions as well as coordinating with other agencies for fueling and defueling, engine run clearance and snow removal, just to name a few," Sergeant Thaut said.

With 16 Airmen from senior airman to master sergeant from eight maintenance specialties, members of the MOC monitor aircraft undergoing maintenance, status of the maintenance and time to completion using the Integrated Maintenance Data System and Enhanced Maintenance Operations Center database systems. 

"We act as the nerve center for B-2 maintenance," Sergeant Thaut said. "A tour in MOC is career broadening. It enables Airmen to learn how maintenance is scheduled, accomplished, prioritized, reported and tracked by all maintenance shops within the 509th Maintenance Group."

509th Maintenance Training Flight

In order to support the B-2 mission, Airmen first must be trained to do so. That is part of the mission of the 509th MTF.

"We are training professionals dedicated to providing career development guidance and continuous world class training while being responsive to training requirements and customer needs," said Master Sgt. Jeannie Trichel, MTF superintendent.

Comprised of six hand-selected training managers, one aerospace ground equipment instructor and two aircraft maintenance instructors, the MTF ensures all 509th MXG members receive all formal and informal training necessary to qualify them in skills, knowledge and techniques to maintain and troubleshoot the B-2 Spirit.

"Our training managers are assigned to each unit in the MXG and are responsible for learning that unit's specific mission and provide tailor-made training to support it," Sergeant Trichel said.

Training managers also coordinate training requests with wing and higher headquarters for all training, she said.

"Our flight is the single point of contact for training in the group," Sergeant Trichel said. "We support 25 Air Force career fields and a multitude of non-military positions. Our staff has insight on all aspects of the maintenance community. We take pride in being the only training support flight for the B-2."