Team Grissom brings home deployed Airmen

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Benjamin Mota
  • 434th ARW Public Affairs

Most of us have had to call that buddy for a ride or have even been that ride at one time or another, and now the 434th Air Refueling Wing can say the same.

Amidst a snow storm and strong winds, a five-Airmen team from Grissom boarded a KC-135R Stratotanker Jan. 13, to bring home a group of 18 Reserve Citizen Airmen who were stranded at an airfield in Maine due to a mechanical issue with their Aircraft.

The 18 Airmen, also from the 434th ARW, were en route home following a deployment to Southwest Asia. During their flight home, their aircraft made a scheduled landing and an ongoing mechanical issue grounded the jet.

“We were notified of the aircraft discrepancy late Saturday evening [Jan. 12], and immediately began looking for the part needed to repair the aircraft along with maintenance recovery team needed to make the repair,” said Chief Master Sgt. Chad Weisend, 434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron superintendent who lead the recovery. “Fortunately, we had the part in supply and were able to begin making the necessary arrangements to travel to Maine.”

While the team made it look easy, there were several pieces of the puzzle that had to fit into place to complete the mission and bring the deployers home.

“This really was a group effort that couldn’t have been done without the support of several people,” explained Weisend. “First of all, we were trying to get everything done on a weekend were most people are not working, in addition to working around nearly six inches of snow that had fallen.”

Before the recovery KC-135 could leave Grissom with replacement part and team, maintainers had to be brought in to prepare the jet for the flight to Maine, airfield management had to build a flight path, and a flight crew had to be assembled to fly the tanker.

While those wheels were in motion, a team of 22 operating 12 snow removal trucks, had already began working 12-14 hour shifts to ensure the runway would be clear to support the mission.

“We started waking guys up at 4 a.m. [Jan 12] before we even knew anything about the recovery mission,” said Brent Meyers, Grissom snow control supervisor. “After we had a crew assembled, we came in and started pushing snow and later found out that we really needed to step it up because of the recovery mission.

“Snow is something we are used to dealing with, but the fact that we were part of this mission being completed really helped to boost morale,” said Meyers. “We had people volunteering to work longer shifts to ensure the runway was cleared and remained cleared.”

After the snow was cleared and recovery team assembled, the 434th ARW tanker departed Grissom to complete the mission.

“We were all very excited about being able to get home on time,” said Senior Master Sgt. Laura Mckee, 72nd Air Refueling Squadron boom operator who was one of the returning deployers. “This is just another testament that we really do have one of the best tanker units out there.

“They could have left us high and dry, but they went out of their way to ensure we made it home safely and on time,” she added.

While the 434th ARW tanker returned to Grissom Jan. 13 with the returning deployers, the recovery team remained in Maine to repair the hydraulic discrepancy that had initially grounded the aircraft.

“We were overjoyed that we’re able to make the recovery happen,” said Weisend. “This was a team effort that couldn’t have been done without everyone’s contributions. It’s always a good feeling when you help out [your fellow Airmen].”

The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker unit in the Air Force Reserve Command. Men and women from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.

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