Train like you fight
By Capt. Aaoron Thomas, 389th Aircraft Maintenance Unit / Published April 25, 2011
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
In the 2001 film, "Behind Enemy Lines," navigator Lt. Chris Burnett (Owen Wilson) and his pilot are flying missions as the war in Bosnia comes to an end. Tired of the monotony of what he considers "training' sorties," which result in no enemy engagements, Lt. Burnett informs Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman), he intends to separate from the military. Admiral Reigart sternly reprimands the Lieutenant, reminding him it's the repetitive nature of training that prepares military members for the battlefield. Later, LieutenantBurnett's aircraft is shot down, and he is forced to survive using his instincts which have been honed by his years of military training.
For more than a year, the 389th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit prepared to deploy to Afghanistan by planning and executing their day-to-day flying hour program. To those outside of maintenance, it appears that F-15E Strike Eagles fly with few problems; however, maintainers know it is a daily, and often weekend, sacrifice to maintain and keep our 30-year-old Eagles flying at their peak/lethal performance.
The repetitive cycle of planning, flying, recovering, and fixing aircraft at home station becomes the daily training grind Lieutenant Burnett complained about. Yet it is this very repetitive cycle that prepares maintainers and operators for the fast paced, 24 hour flying required to support the Air Tasking Order.
The furious fix/fly pace at our deployed location is unmatched anywhere else in the Air Force. The 389th FS/AMU flew some 1,400 training hours at home station for five months. Once the 389th took on the F-15E ATO mission at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, it flew an incredible 1,775 hours in 27 days without missing a single sortie! Simply impressive considering the isolated nature of the deployed location makes the mission all the more challenging since aircraft parts and equipment must make a round-the-world journey before they can be used to support the mission.
The maintainers are exceeding U.S Air Forces Central's expectations with their professionalism and focused military bearing, but such high caliber Airmen were not trained overnight. We are who we are thanks to every training bomb loaded, electronic component fixed and training sortie launched. We train like we fight, so when we are called to fight our nation's enemies we are triumphant.
The F-15E mission is as exciting as it is exhausting, but most of all it's absolutely crucial to our brothers and sisters in arms who are rebuilding Afghanistan outside the wire. When bombs on target are requested, we scramble our jets within minutes to support those who are in a fire fight. Equally important is that our maintainers will return as combat tested veterans, experts in aircraft maintenance, alert launches and deployed logistics - all critical to fighting and winning our nation's wars.