'Maintenance Magic' earns unit Air Force award

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aaron Cram
  • 353rd Special Operations Group
Airmen assigned to the 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron work hard keeping United States Pacific Command's special operations aviation fleet mission ready. Air Force officials recently highlighted their efforts by presenting the 2011 Air Force Maintenance Effectiveness Award in the Small Aircraft Maintenance category to the squadron.

The AF Maintenance Effectiveness Award recognizes the unit that best met the objective of providing safe, serviceable, and available equipment for sustained use across the spectrum of conflict. What adds to the significance of this award is that the 353rd SOMXS is a diverse unit executing responsibilities normally reserved for a maintenance group.

"We are extremely proud the Air Force recognizes the sacrifices and hard work of our maintainers," said Maj. Ronald Thomas, the 353rd SOMXS commander. "Our Airmen overcome daily and sometimes hourly obstacles associated with small fleet dynamics to meet unique mission tasking, and we did it with pride and professionalism. None of our 'Wizards' come to work asking themselves what he or she can do to win an award and be recognized. All of us come to work understanding our role and significance in accomplishing the mission.

"The flexibility afforded a small, diverse organization is a key component to our success," Thomas said. "We are able to adapt and overcome on a moment's notice. We collectively identify roles that need to be filled and internally source them regardless of Air Force specialty codes. The bottom line is mission execution...that's our singular focus. Our diversity feeds our ability to answer when the nation calls upon us."

Throughout 2011, 353rd SOMXS Airmen flawlessly prosecuted the mission, completing 9,000 maintenance actions culminating in 136,100 man-hours of labor; and generating 723 sorties totaling 3,340 flying hours supporting Special Operations Command-Pacific theater engagement priorities. The group conducted six Joint Combined Exchange Training exercises and three Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed exercises spanning seven Pacific nations while maintaining a continuous Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan and Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines presence. In addition, 353rd SOMXS personnel thoroughly prepared for and executed a demanding Air Force Special Operations Command Operational Readiness Inspection earning an overall "Excellent" rating.

Shortly after deploying to Daegu Air Base in South Korea a JCS-directed exercise doubling as the Operational Readiness Inspection, the squadron transitioned to an emergent humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission after a devastating earthquake and tsunami impacted northern Japan. The squadron generated 161 sorties delivering 878,000 pounds of aid to support over one million Japanese in need.

"The common strand underlying the variety of mission sets the 353rd SOMXS is tasked to conduct remains mission execution excellence," said Col. Brad Sullivan, 353rd Special Operations Group commander. "Maintenance professionals of the 353rd SOMXS are a vital cog furthering United States objectives in the Pacific theater. The group relies upon the tremendous efforts of men and women in the 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron to execute its mission. I am humbled and proud of this recognition of their efforts."