Arizona Airmen answer call to help fellow tanker unit

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kelly Deitloff
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
On a busy unit training assembly weekend in March, filled with an annual award ceremony and family day activities, a group of Airmen from the 161st Air Refueling Wing here worked behind the scenes to help a group of stranded Alaska Air Guardsmen return home.

The 161st was asked to send a maintenance team on short notice to Cheyenne, Wyoming, to repair a disabled KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft so its crew could return to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.

It is not uncommon in the Air Force and Air National Guard tanker community for aircrews to call on nearby KC-135 maintenance units to help repair broken components when far from home.

Maintainers started coordinating with the Alaska crew chiefs that were with the aircraft in Wyoming. They did some troubleshooting over the phone to hone in on the solution.

"We sat on one of our aircraft and went step by step using the technical data to troubleshoot while having the Alaska crew chiefs perform the same steps on the broken aircraft," said Staff Sgt. John Milhoan, a communications and navigation specialist. "This troubleshooting gave us an idea of what parts and tools we would need to take with us on the trip."

Meanwhile Airmen from traffic management, supply and finance were working hard to get airline tickets booked, parts ordered and funding secured.

Parts were researched through the supply system, checking to see the status of parts in stock and if they were not in stock, where they could be ordered from.

Next, the traffic management office coordinated with the airline's cargo manager and ticketing desk to see if the parts could be transported as checked baggage or hand carried.  "Making sure the parts are labeled correctly is important, if something isn't correct it could prevent the parts from being shipped," said Senior Master Sgt. Matt Van Rossem, traffic management office superintendent.

With airline tickets purchased, parts and tools packed, Milhoan and Master Sgt. Jay Taylor, an aircraft electrician, headed to Cheyenne early the next day.

Once in place they immediately began working on the aircraft. Using the information from the prior day's troubleshooting, they identified the faulty part.

"We spent about four hours troubleshooting, swapped out a couple of parts and finally narrowed down the problem to faulty wiring on the enhanced GPS inertial navigation unit," said Milhoan.

They repaired the wiring and ran all the tests again and everything was in working order. The next day the aircraft launched and returned home to Alaska.

"It was the efforts of each individual and the team working as a whole, utilizing their skill sets that made this mission a success," said Taylor.