News Search


162nd Maintenance Group named top 2022 AETC maintenance unit

  • Published
  • 162nd Wing

The 162nd Maintenance Group was recognized as an Air National Guard top maintenance unit, winning the 2022 Maintenance Effectiveness Award.

After earning the top spot in the medium aircraft maintenance unit category for Air Education and Training Command, the unit has advanced to compete at the Air Force level.

The current award recognizes units that successfully manage maintenance resources to provide safe and serviceable equipment for sustained use in peacetime and wartime. According to Lt. Col. James Murphy, 162nd Maintenance Group commander, the unit went above and beyond to support the wing’s flying mission while managing an unprecedented number of hurdles.

“One of the big challenges is filling the schedule and having enough jets to actually fill the squadron,” said Murphy. “But while all of that as going on, we never reduced flying, and we never graduated a student late.”

One of the unit’s largest projects of the year was to convert 30 Block 32 F-16s, which are equipped with Pratt Whitney engines, to Block 30s, which employ the GE engine. About a decade ago, the unit performed a one-for-one swap of jets with another unit, but this time the conversion was more complex. The unit accepted jets from six other guard units and transferred jets out to the Navy and the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, all of which had their own unique inspection requirements.

The 195th Aircraft Maintenance Unit also upgraded eight of their aircraft with an AESA radar package, improving the jet’s capabilities, but limiting which pilots could fly the jet depending on their qualifications.

“We were just playing musical chairs,” said Master Sgt. Tommy Riesgo, a production superintendent with the 195th Aircraft Maintenance unit. “In the 195th, [operations] would tell us that this student can fly with AESA, this one can’t. This one can fly a Block 32, and this one can fly a Block 30. It was really tough to accommodate.”

Murphy echoed, “It was a tremendous amount of coordination between [operations] and maintenance to make sure the proper jets are with the proper student with the proper configuration, and we were able to do that without reducing flying.”

Master Sgt. Shawn Bell, a propulsion supervisor with the 162nd Maintenance Squadron, added that in addition to creating challenges with operations, the conversion had a domino effect for other areas of maintenance, like the engine shop.

“We have had to stand up a whole new shop in order to do intermediate maintenance because it’s a different motor,” said Bell. “We had to process maybe 2,000 pieces of support equipment to get the maintenance going, so it’s been a very big undertaking for us. We may be the only unit in the Air Force that will have both a Pratt & Whitney and General Electric engine shop.”

The 152nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit also had the experience of shuffling aircraft; however, one of their hurdles was less expected.

According to Senior Master Sgt. Joe McDade, a production superintendent with the 152nd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, his unit was supporting a service life extension program that required at least four jets to be out of service at a time over the next four years. However, they also discovered early cracking to major structural components on their jets that necessitated long-term depot-level maintenance, typically serviced at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

McDade said the maintenance group overcame that hurdle by negotiating with engineers from Hill Air Force Base to perform the maintenance locally instead of waiting for depot’s input.

Senior Master Sgt. Ben Koughn, a fabrication element supervisor with the 162nd Maintenance Group, explained that the unit hosted engineers from Hill’s depot team to develop how to perform the repairs in the field.

“A big part of that was they really didn’t have a prepped depot field team yet. So with the engineers coming down here, we kind of streamlined it and spearheaded the process,” said Koughn. “Through verification and validation with the engineers, that transferred to equipping the depot field team being out there to provide this service to other units.”

“It’s a significant problem throughout the F-16 fleet right now, and many other bases are having these problems, and there isn’t enough space at depot to get it all fixed,” said Murphy. “So we’re taking a big burden off the depot level to allow other units to get their jets fixed up there while we fix ours here.”

The maintenance group has reduced the repair process to a six-week turnaround, whereas the depot team projects an eight- to nine-week process, according to Koughn. He also stated that by performing repairs locally, the wing saved a significant amount of money.

“The cost savings is huge. For us to send a jet up to depot is close to a million dollars,” said Koughn. “Our cost, even with manpower and everything, is less than five percent of that.”

The maintenance group’s avionics intermediate shop also contributed to cost-effective repair solutions for other units within the region with capabilities not typically seen on guard bases, according to Murphy.

“Our avionics intermediate shop repaired 1,319 line replaceable units last year saving the Air Force $3.9 million, which hits on the fact that we do a lot of repair here that a lot of other units would have to send out,” said Murphy. “This not only gets our jets back in the air, but it also saves the Air Force a lot of money.”

In addition to keeping jets flying at home, the maintenance group also kept jets in the air on a higher rate of deployments.

“I think we did a total, collectively between the 152nd and 195th, 14 TDYs that happened during that entire year while all this stuff is going on,” said Koughn. “This is unheard of considering the main squadrons typically do one TDY a year.”

The maintenance group recognized the award as a reflection of teamwork and tenacity, and according to McDade, that attitude is what sets their unit apart.

“When issues come up, we don’t shy away from them,” said McDade. “We all come together as a team, find the yes and the best way to move forward. If we wouldn’t have kept pushing the limits and finding the ‘yes,’ we all would have come to a grinding halt and flying would have taken a direct hit. And that’s how we’re able to stay ahead, and that’s usually why we’re above and beyond every other unit.”