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Raptors takeoff through teamwork

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Jennifer Redente
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
To support F-22s Raptors deployed here as part of U.S. Pacific Command's Theater Security Packages, a team of maintenance personnel are working behind the scenes to ensure that each flying mission is a success.

The team of 150 Airmen from the 525th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, is providing maintenance support for 12 F-22 Raptors, also deployed here from Alaska, to meet emerging security challenges in the Asia-Pacific Region. The team, which includes both officer and enlisted, is responsible for the condition of the flying fleet, and for the safety of its flying team.

"It takes a skilled team of Airmen to get these F-22s in the sky," said 2nd Lt. Brian Struyk, 525th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. "I'm just glad we have some top-notch Airmen for this mission and I look forward to working alongside them."

The aircraft maintenance team includes: low observables technicians, weapons load crew members, electrical and avionics specialists, fuels specialists, crash recovery team and crew chiefs.

"Our day-to-day mission out here is pretty simple: get the jets ready to go," said Staff Sgt. Donald Lundeen, 525th EAMU F-22 Raptor crew chief. "We make sure they are ready for our aircrew to train and to meet real-world requirements."

In order for the Raptors to support the TSP mission, each member of the team has a key role in the process. And while many might assume the pilot is the most significant player of the team, the maintenance team is a key player in ensuring the aircraft get off the ground, according to Sergeant Lundeen.

"I think [our] job is pretty important because without your crew chief [and maintenance team] out there working the jet, you really don't have a jet," said Sergeant Lundeen. "You have a good static display. That's about it."

While Sergeant Lundeen is proud of what he and his fellow crew chiefs are responsible for, he said he understands the big picture of what the entire team is responsible for.

"I think our job here is to show the world that we can take the F-22 Raptor, and put it on anyone's door step, anytime and anywhere," he said.

Even those with a few years experience, like Airman 1st Class Andrew Snelling, a 525th EMAU weapons load crew member, have pride in what they are accomplishing each day, but realize the importance of the 525th EAMU being deployed here.

"Our unit's goal is to get every sortie that we've planned," said Airman Snelling, 525th EAMU weapons load crew member. "If we're getting our sorties, it reflects well on our unit. As long as we get the sorties that we've planned and fly them successfully, we should be in fine shape."

Whether deployed or at home station, Airmen of the 525th EAMU have the same mission-- to ensure the aircraft is ready for flight. The location, however, can play a role in what type of work is required for the maintenance unit, Sergeant Lundeen said.

"One of the challenges that we're going to face is definitely the heat," Sergeant Lundeen said. "Being out here, coming from Alaska, it's a pretty big change temperature wise. The aircraft dealing with humidity is another big challenge you face, but we've got a good unit, so we'll overcome anything that comes our way."

A great deal of responsibility is entrusted to the young enlisted Airmen who help ensure each Raptor is prepared to fly, Lieutenant Struyk said.

"Most young adults out of high school can't fathom being responsible for a $130 million aircraft," said Lieutenant Struyk. "The Airmen we have here make it look easy."

A core team of specialist is trained to troubleshoot problems from avionics to electrical equipment on the aircraft, the Lieutenant said.

One of the most important aspects of the F-22 is its low observable characteristics.

"We have a separate back shop crew called LO that maintains all of the coating on the aircraft," the lieutenant said. "Due to the heat, rain and high humidity, the LO technicians have one of the heaviest workloads here."

The Air Force deployed two contingents of F-22A Raptors, the newest addition to the Air Force's aircraft inventory, to Pacific Theater in May for approximately four months. Twelve fighters deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan from the 94th Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, Va., and 12 deployed to Guam from the 525th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. The deployments support U.S. Pacific Command's Theater Security Packages in the Western Pacific.

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