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434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron repairs KC-135R, ensures mission success

Staff Sgt. Jonah Rodriguez, 434thAircraft Maintenance Squadron hydraulic system technicians, repair the boom on a KC-135R Stratotanker, March 13, 2012, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The KC-135R Stratotanker is responsible for mid-flight refueling and aiding the Air Force in its Global Reach and Global Power missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

Staff Sgt. Jonah Rodriguez, 434thAircraft Maintenance Squadron hydraulic system technicians, repair the boom on a KC-135R Stratotanker, March 13, 2012, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The KC-135R Stratotanker is responsible for mid-flight refueling and aiding the Air Force in its Global Reach and Global Power missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

Airmen assigned to the 434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work together to repair one of the base’s many KC-135R Stratotankers, March 13, 2012, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The 434th AMS is responsible for maintaining the aircraft here at Grissom and ensuring the continuation of the refueling mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

Airmen assigned to the 434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron work together to repair one of the base’s many KC-135R Stratotankers, March 13, 2012, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The 434th AMS is responsible for maintaining the aircraft here at Grissom and ensuring the continuation of the refueling mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

Airmen assigned to the 434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron repair the boom of one of the many KC-135R Stratotankers, March 13, 2012, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The boom gives the KC-135R Stratotanker its mid-flight refueling capabilities and is highly essential to the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

Airmen assigned to the 434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron repair the boom of one of the many KC-135R Stratotankers, March 13, 2012, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The boom gives the KC-135R Stratotanker its mid-flight refueling capabilities and is highly essential to the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

Staff Sgt. John Lawless,434th Maintenance Squadron metals technician, replaces the rolling pins within the boom controls of a KC-135R Stratotanker, March 13, 2021, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The aircraft was receiving maintenance overall, because the boom was unable to lower itself down far enough to meet the receiving aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

Staff Sgt. John Lawless,434th Maintenance Squadron metals technician, replaces the rolling pins within the boom controls of a KC-135R Stratotanker, March 13, 2021, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The aircraft was receiving maintenance overall, because the boom was unable to lower itself down far enough to meet the receiving aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

Staff Sgt. Brandon Matthews, 434th Maintenance Squadron metals technician, replaces the rolling pins within the boom of a KC-135R Stratotanker, March 13, 2021, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The aircraft was receiving maintenance overall, because the controlling equipment was unable to lower itself down far enough to meet the receiving aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

Staff Sgt. Brandon Matthews, 434th Maintenance Squadron metals technician, replaces the rolling pins within the boom of a KC-135R Stratotanker, March 13, 2021, Grissom Air Reserve Base, Indiana. The aircraft was receiving maintenance overall, because the controlling equipment was unable to lower itself down far enough to meet the receiving aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexa Culbert)

GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. --

Turning wrenches to keep KC-135R Stratotankers flying is a demanding task calling for grit, toughness, and perseverance as temperature swings on the mass parking ramp can be sweltering hot, to bone numbing cold – sometimes in the same day. 

Airmen assigned to the 434th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron recently finished repairing the refueling boom on one of Grissom’s 16 KC-135R Stratotankers.

The boom is only one aspect of the aircraft, but Staff Sgt. John Lawless, 434th AMXS hydraulic system technician, described it as the entire justification for the base itself.

“This single piece of equipment is what allows the Stratotanker to supply fuel mid-flight to aircraft performing long range missions,” said Lawless. 

“We refuel, and this is how we do it,” said Staff Sgt. Jonah Rodriguez, 434th AMXS hydraulic system technician. “The boom comes down and then it connects to the receiver jet and pumps fuel to it.”

Though maintenance is an important career field, it can be taxing, and Rodriguez pointed out that there’s not a lot of people who are up for the job. 

“Maintenance is one of the toughest jobs in the Air Force when it comes to being physically demanding and having to balance work and home life,” he said.

Lawless admitted that he had no idea what he was getting into when he joined the maintenance team, however, despite the challenging and sometimes frustrating days of working on a 60-year old aircraft, it’s a rewarding career field.

“The mission itself gives us a lot of pride, specifically in a deployed location, because you get see the mission at its full effect ... and then seeing it fly and seeing the mission at work makes it worthwhile,” said Rodriguez.

In addition to putting planes in the air, the two agreed the demanding world of maintenance cultivates a sense of teamwork and camaraderie between its personnel unlike other career fields.  

Rodriguez said, “you put in a long day with each other and then it’s time to wind down, so we’ve all become close.”

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

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