Operation Team Spirit improves efficiency, readiness

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Wendy Kuhn
  • 121st Air Refueling Wing
Members of the 121st Air Refueling Wing's Maintenance Squadron and Maintenance Group here took part in inspections on a 121 ARW KC-135 Stratotanker during its programmed depot maintenance as part of Operation Team Spirit, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., Mar. 2, 2015 - Mar. 4, 2015. The program allows home station maintenance Airmen to collaborate with 564th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron personnel while they perform inspections on aircraft in the depot facility as it undergoes the intense four- to six-month process of depot maintenance.

Depot maintenance is performed on KC-135 aircraft every five years, and involves stripping the aircraft down, inspecting it for deficiencies, and fixing or replacing parts as necessary, said Senior Master Sgt. Edward Taylor, quality assurance team lead, 121st ARW Maintenance Group.

"This is a 1958 model so given its age, corrosion is a huge enemy to this aircraft," said Taylor.

Prior to Team Spirit, acceptance inspections were performed at the aircrafts' home stations after the maintenance was completed, said Taylor. This process resulted in a higher amount of write-ups found during the inspections and increased inspection times. Under the Team Spirit process, many issues can be corrected on the spot while the aircraft is still dismantled.

"From our unit's standpoint, this process is massively beneficial," said Master Sgt. Don Armstrong, quality assurance, 121st ARW Maintenance Group. "Not only does it provide a second set of eyes on the aircraft which improves safety, but it also decreases downtime at home because it streamlines the acceptance inspection process."

The Team Spirit program also provides both the depot facility and the 121 ARW Maintenance Airmen with an opportunity to share information, ideas and best practices, said Master Sgt. Mark Rawlins, crew chief, 121st ARW Maintenance Group. Additionally, it gives the Airmen a better understanding of how the aircraft goes together and what is involved in the depot maintenance process, said Rawlins.

"If we just take this jet home, we have no idea what's been done to it or how it goes together," said Rawlins. "When we come here, we're able to see it torn down and we gain a lot of knowledge from that."

This two-way exchange of information and ideas also benefits the 564th AMXS facility personnel as well, said Curtis Kisling, Systems Unit Chief, Tanker Production Flight, 564th AMXS. It also improves the working relations between their unit and the home station unit.

"When our people are able to put faces to the people that actually fly and maintain these jets, it gives these guys an enormous sense of pride and it shows in the work they do," said Kisling.

After the aircraft returns home, an acceptance inspection is performed there as well, but it is significantly reduced by the Team Spirit process, said Taylor.

"This aircraft is going on 60 years old, and it projected out for another 20 - 30 years," said Taylor. "This process is essential to keeping the aircraft flying. It keeps it reliable and sustainable as long as the Air Force needs it."