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36th EAMXS award honors legendary "Nine-O-Nine"

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
The leadership waits silently on Andersen's flightline ramp, in an area where the crew chiefs can't see them. With certificates in hand, the leaders get ready to congratulate the winners of the "Nine-O-Nine" award the moment the B-52 Stratofortress breaks ground for its 20th straight sortie without a maintenance abort.

Three teams of dedicated crew chiefs from the 36th EAMXS, which is currently comprised of members from the 69th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., achieved the "Nine-O-Nine" award while deployed here to support the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron and Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence.

The "Nine-O-Nine" award was named after a B-17G Flying Fortress "Nine-O-Nine," which flew 126 sorties during World War II without a maintenance abort.

The "Nine-O-Nine" award was started by the 5th Bomb Wing's Maintenance group commander at Minot AFB. Air crews at home are required to accomplish 50 consecutive sorties without a maintenance abort. The deployed maintenance squadron brought the award process one step further by bringing the award process with them during their deployment here.

"We looked at the flying averages during the deployment and came up with 20 sorties," said Chief Master Sgt. John Van Duser, 36th EAMXS superintendent. "A number that is challenging but achievable."

The dedicated crew chiefs who work on the aircraft that achieve the 9-0-9 Award receive a framed certificate with photo and a chance to have their names engraved on a trophy located in the maintenance group building at Minot when they achieve the 50 sortie milestone.

In order to keep track of progress, leadership hangs up the status of the aircraft each week.

"After their jets launch for that day, the team pencils in their sorties have gone up; they're really quick," said Chief Van Duser. "If a team had a ground abort, opposing teams put them back to zero. They're watching each other, which ultimately keep the jets in top condition."

Aside from the crews' performance, the amount of time it takes to win the award also depends on flying schedules, number of aircraft, flight hours and sorties.

"We were three months in before we even had a jet that was close to hitting 20," said the chief. "When the 1st jet won, the 2nd jet won it back to back. It just takes time for them to get situated and to accumulate enough sorties."

When doing maintenance work on a B-52 Stratofortress, crew chiefs are required to fix a plethora of discrepancies. These range from replacing light bulbs to hydraulics and communication navigation systems which all need to be in order for the aircraft to be in flying condition before the next flight.

"We try to turn over as much information between day shift and night shift," said Staff Sgt. Jim Alcozer, 36th EAMXS crew chief. "We try to stay on top of it. We take care of anything that we foresee that may affect the aircraft's capability to execute its mission."
Specialists work side by side with the aircraft's dedicated crew chiefs and play a vital role in getting the seasoned aircraft up in the air.

"It definitely takes team work to get an aircraft to the 9-0-9 milestone," said Chief Van Duser.

Sergeant Alcozer said the award is more for our Airmen since they do more of the hands on work. With the noncommissioned officers responsible with the follow-ups and the seven-level tasks, the quality of the Airmen's work integral to the maintenance process.

Recently B-52 aircraft 61-034 arrived here with 40 sorties and made 50 while on island, allowing them to have their names etched on the "Nine-O-Nine" trophy at Minot AFB.

With the time to return home to Minot AFB slowly getting closer, the 36th EAMXS intends to pass on the reward process to the incoming maintenance squadron from Barksdale, La.

"We presented the idea of the 'Nine-O-Nine' award to the incoming squadron because it helps the Airmen develop pride in what they do every day," said Chief Van Duser. "The friendly competition helps. It instills pride in their aircraft, knowing that what they do directly affect the mission. The ultimate goal is to get the aircraft off the ground, and this program helps them keep a closer eye on these valuable Air Force assets."

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