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446th AMXS maintains combat readiness through resiliency

Airman inspect aircraft

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Carl Shmidt, 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainer, inspects a C-17 Globemaster III engine for debris or damage during a flight recovery inspection July 11, 2020 on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The pandemic threw a wrench into annual training plans, but 446th AMXS maintainers continue to persevere by working alongside the active-duty 62nd AMXS. This total force integration helps the units support local daily tasks, such as launch and recovery of aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Erb)

Airman hangs red tags on aircraft

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Paolo Felicitas, 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight crew chief, secures red tags, which indicate a successful flight recovery, on a C-17 Globemaster III July 11, 2020 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The 446th AMXS maintainers continue to persevere through a pandemic by working alongside the 62nd AMXS. This total force integration helps the units support local daily tasks, such as launch and recovery of aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Erb)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --

For 446th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers, readiness means being confident and proficient in their area of responsibility. 

Typically, the maintainers perform temporary duty travel and enroute flights to receive real world, hands-on training during annual tour, said Maj. Naomi Ballard, a 446th AMXS maintenance operations officer.

The pandemic has thrown a wrench into their typical unit training assembly and annual training plans, but 446th AMXS maintainers continue to persevere by working alongside the 62nd AMXS.

This total force integration helps the units support local daily tasks, such as launch and recovery of aircraft.

“Hands on. First and foremost is what I tell my guys,” Ballard said. “They have to know the job; it’s very cyclical.”

There are two components to mission readiness: an Airman’s job-specific duties and personal readiness, to include maintaining an updated family care plan, financial management, and staying current on Air Force mobility requirements, said Maj. Lauren Swiderski, a 446th AMXS maintenance operations officer.

“It’s not just about turning wrenches, it’s also about that human piece,” Swiderski said. “As traditional Reservists, we already face a huge challenge of getting enough time to do what needs to be done, but we need our Airmen to be touching aircraft every chance they get.”

Resiliency is also a major component of readiness for all Reserve Citizen Airmen.

The 446th AMXS mission statement and vision statement is generating maintainers to produce global airlift and developing resilient maintainers for dynamic response, Swiderski said.

“We need to be genuine with our Airmen and not just check a box,” she said. “We want to slow down, listen and work to resolve if needed.”

Chief Master Sgt. Edgar A. Reinfeld Jr., 446th Maintenance Squadron superintendent, said he is an advocate for effective communication, especially in a COVID-19 virtual environment. He encourages his Airmen to stay informed and stay connected through USAF Connect, a wing app.

“A typical UTA means you will see stripes on the line daily,” said Reinfeld. “This is for safety and accountability on both parts.”

Stripes on the line, is the concept in which senior leaders make rounds on the flight line. This allows for open lines of communication, and to mitigate risk and injury through observation and correction. It’s also an opportunity to perform health and welfare checks.

“I personally know as many as 170 of my Airmen by first and last name,” Reinfeld said. “It helps to build trusting relationships between senior leaders and airmen.”

As part of a routine measure to check on his Airmen, Reinfeld said he uses the ACE method, or Ask, Care, Escort, a component of the suicide prevention program.

For the maintainers of 446th AMXS, readiness is the mission. This means adjusting to the current world events and restrictions, and still being able to do the job well.

“We are beating the game with the game,” said Reinfeld. “Readiness means more than having a bag packed and knowing that you could be called to action.”