Birds don’t fly without supply

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Adam R. Shanks
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Every day, Air Force aircraft maintainers repair and replace broken parts on their respective aircraft. Whether these parts are brand new or refurbished, they are required for maintainers to uphold rapid global mobility by keeping planes in the air.

The maintainers are responsible for understanding the ins and outs of aircraft maintenance, as well as the use of parts. However, there’s a group of Airmen who maintainers count on to provide the aircraft parts they need, when they need them.

Supply Airmen assigned to the 6th Logistics Readiness Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida provide installation support to the 6th Air Mobility Wing, as well as the other MacDill tenant units.

Their role is to maintain a supply of any part that would be necessary to keep MacDill’s KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft mission-ready with minimal maintenance downtime.

“On average we process about 30 to 40 parts per day,” said Staff Sgt. Bernardo Ostalaza, the NCO in charge of central storage and mobility readiness spares packages assigned to the 6th LRS. “Most of the items we keep on-hand in the hangar range from nuts, bolts and washers to aircraft brakes, wheels and tires.”

One of Ostalaza’s duties is to maintain supply “kits” with a certain amount of aircraft parts. These kits contain items that are frequently used to help sustain an aircraft such as a KC-135 during a deployment or contingency operation. This provides faster repairs in the event of a broken part while at another base or country.

“When using the kits during a deployment, we are able to get the aircraft maintainers the equipment they need within minutes,” said Senior Airman Jerod Garcia, an inventory technician assigned to the 6th LRS. “During an exercise, it’s crucial to make repairs as quickly as possible and even in the event that we don’t have the part on-hand, we can always find a way to get it.”

When an aircraft deploys, its crew and the maintainers assigned deploy with it. The same is true with supply Airmen and supply kits.

“At a minimum, two supply troops will deploy with a kit,” said Ostalaza. “Once at their forward operating base, those Airmen will act as a logistics supply liaison, keeping the kit stocked and ordering any parts necessary to sustain the aircraft’s operability.

“We’re prepared to keep the aircraft sustained for 30, 60 to even 120 days.”

Without supply’s help, required aircraft repairs will be postponed due to the missing parts. It’s their job to keep supplies flowing in order to keep aircraft flying.

“On average, we keep more than 15,000 individual general-use parts as well as more than 9,000 aircraft parts at MacDill,” said Ostalaza. “Accountability is huge because each part has its own unique location in the warehouse and if the system says it’s there and it can’t be found, then someone is responsible for a part worth upwards to $100,000.

“It can be hard work, but in the end, our actions directly affect the speed of maintenance repairs to keep planes in the air.”