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If it's in the air...

  • Published
  • By Col. Barry Roeper
  • 6th Maintenance Group commander
If you've been to a wing event recently, such as an award, promotion or graduation ceremony, you've probably heard folks shouting, "If it's in the air...MXG put it there!" It's the 6th and 927th Maintenance Groups' motto. Occasionally when it's shouted, I've heard disparaging remarks from others. I'd like to take this opportunity to explain what the phrase means to a maintainer and why it should bring commendation, rather than condemnation.

When I first enlisted in the Air Force, I was an aircraft maintainer working on the F-4 Phantom II aircraft (yes, it was a long time ago). Whenever I was walking on the flightline, carrying my technical order in one hand and my toolbox in the other, I would always stop when one of our F-4s was taking off, watch it rise up in the air and retract the gear. It was a beautiful thing, and it always filled me with a warm, intense sense of pride. That's because I knew that the work I did on that aircraft, the energy, sweat, and occasionally blood I shed on that aircraft enabled that jet to take off with the assurance that the aircrew would successfully perform their mission and land safely. What a feeling!

Stopping to watch the aircraft take off wasn't a once-in-a-while thing; it was an every time thing. I just couldn't help it. Someone once told me that eventually I would tire of it and not even notice when a jet was taking off. Well, it's 32 years later, and if you see me walking down the flightline on my way to a meeting, you'll still see me turn and look whenever one of our jets take to the air.

I still feel that warm sense of pride that I've always felt. It's a little different, because now that pride is not in the work I've done myself, but the work my Airmen have done. It's their blood, sweat, and tears that put that aircraft in the air now, so it's more like the pride a parent feels. I sincerely hope and believe my maintainers feel the same sense of pride I felt when I was in their boots.

When we say "If it's in the air...MXG put it there," that's just us exhibiting the pride we feel in the work we do. We're not implying that our group is solely responsible for getting the aircraft in the air. We know it takes everyone in the wing working together to ensure mission success. But what's unique about the 6th and 927th Maintenance Groups is that the KC-135s assigned to MacDill Air Force Base are our sole reason for existence. Without the KC-135, other groups still have a function and missions to support, the MXG does not. It's all about the KC-135. It's our responsibility to keep this 50-year-old work-of-wonder flying, safely and effectively, every day and for many years to come. We take this responsibility seriously, and we take a lot of pride in doing it well. Believe me, you want your maintainers to take pride in the work they do.

Do not dissuade when you hear us shout, "If it's in the air, MXG put it there." Be appreciative of the pride and seriousness we take in keeping the KC-135, the backbone of the United States' tanker fleet.