Missouri Air National Guardsman uses aircraft knowledge to save deployment sortie

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  • By Rachel Knight
  • UPAR
Senior Master Sgt. Mike Stout saved the day prior to a particular mission that required immediate maintenance action on a B-2 Spirit Bomber in Guam.

The Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing at Whiteman deployed pilots, flight equipment specialists and maintenance personnel to help support the B-2 mission.

Sergeant Stout was summoned on his off-duty time to assist in removing a broken bolt out of an anti-skid manifold on one of the aircraft. It took Sergeant Stout and additional personal three hours to remove the broken bolt. If they weren't able to remove the bolt, it would have taken the crew around 30 hours to change the valve, jack and retract, according to Sergeant Stout.

"I felt with my experience, I could contribute to repairing the aircraft allowing it to make its mission," Sergeant Stout said. "If the bolt could not be removed, the entire valve would have to be replaced."

"I knew that Senior Master Sgt. Stout has 30 years of experience removing broken bolts," said Chief Master Sgt. Mark D. Funk, aircraft maintenance unit chief. "I have worked with Mike for 15 plus years, dating back to the F-15. We have been on many Air Expeditionary Force deployments. I knew Mike is the most experienced structural maintainer on the island."

The aircraft was getting ready for an upcoming mission and was already on the center ramp. If the valve was changed out completely, the aircraft would be required to go through tests on the valve and system for technical order compliance making it unable to launch that day for the mission.

The total maintenance time and mandated testing would have put the aircraft out of circulation for about 48 hours, Chief Funk said.

"We would have lost two local training missions on the day in question and risked losing an important long duration training mission the next day," Chief Funk said.

The crew launched the bomber's mission only one hour late, due to the proficiency of the personnel working on the aircraft. Sergeant Stout has worked in aircraft maintenance for eight years with the active Air Force and 24 years with the Missouri Air National Guard.

Chief Funk also said, the daily maintenance requirements could not be achieved without Senior Master Sgt. Barb Becker. She deployed as a maintenance operations flight chief, but early in the deployment a requirement came down to inspect B-2 engine bays, this required removing several engines per aircraft.

Technical orders require five qualified propulsion maintainers to remove and install F118 engines in the B-2 Bomber. The particular deployment manning requires five five-level and one seven-level propulsion troops.

"We pulled Senior Master Sgt. Becker, also a seven-level from the maintenance operations flight, and used other specialist to build two teams," Chief Funk said. "This allowed the unit to work 24 hour shifts and return three aircraft to full mission-capable status and flying schedule within three weeks. She has taken leadership of one of the teams."

Sergeant Becker is a 20 plus year maintainer and Chief Funk has known her for 10 years and deployed with her many times.

"Without her jumping in to help, we would have only been able to maintain one shift operation and it would have doubled the time to return the aircraft to full mission-capable status," Chief Funk said. "Due to her leadership and maintenance experience we have gotten 11 critical B-2 training sorties."

This deployment is only the second time Missouri Air National Guardsmen have deployed with the 509th Bomb Wing to Guam. A year ago, a small contingent of Air Guard personnel deployed to Guam for the first time since the 131st Bomb Wing became a classic associate unit. The deployment is just a portion of the mission aimed towards achieving total force integration within the Air Force. Lt Col Michael Pyburn, director of total force integration for the 131st Bomb Wing, said that in the total force concept, active, Guard, and reserve forces work together to achieve the Air Force's mission.

"With both Barb and Mike, the Guard experience and leadership surfaced and has been a bright spot in our forward bomber presence deployment," said Chief Funk.