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Maintainers confront challenges, overcome all

ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- It has been a lot quieter around the base in recent weeks as all 48th Fighter Wing F-15 flying operations have moved to RAF Mildenhall due to required runway repairs here.

While it's been quiet here, it's been bustling at the nearby tanker base thanks to the hard work and dedication of the 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and all of the support personnel involved with the move.

The move wasn't easy, and according to Airmen within the squadron, there were many challenges that were overcome to see it through.

"It's really hard to quantify what it took to move these aircraft," said Master Sgt. Scott Bauer, 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendant. "It's actually impossible. The amount of work these guys accomplished is absolutely amazing."

In an attempt to quantify the work, a picture needs to be painted. The 48th Fighter Wing has three squadrons of F-15s. One squadron is in Bulgaria taking part in Joint Exercise Sentry Gold, while the other two squadrons were both transitioning into and out of Afghanistan. These Afghanistan movements, along with normal events like Airmen taking leave and other temporary duties, stripped the maintenance squadron of 75 percent of its manpower, leaving only 25 percent of their people here to move the operations to Mildenhall.

To complicate the matter, some of their aircraft were being upgraded. These upgrades, completed by contractors, had to be finished and then the aircraft returned to the 48th AMXS in time for them to complete even more inspections prior to their move.

These additional inspections required the maintenance squadron to work extended hours and into their weekends in order for all maintenance actions to be completed. Also, while all of this was happening, maintenance supervisors were making multiple trips back and forth to the tanker base to figure out where they would park the aircraft, where they would launch the aircraft, how to manage the airfield operations and many other intricacies weaving fighter and tanker aircraft operations together.

"It's different," said Sergeant Bauer. "There are some challenges here we're getting used to. Working at a heavy base is different than working at a fighter base. There are things to get used to."

To overcome these challenges, Staff Sgt. Sensy Lacen, 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-15 dedicated crew chief, mentioned flexibility as the key to working something like this.

"It's more the ability to adapt on the fly," he said. "You learn to overcome whatever is thrown at you."

"Regardless of the challenges thrown at you, these jets are going to fly," he said.

And fly they do. Although the maintainers have faced many challenges in the last few months, every aircraft needed to move to RAF Mildenhall has moved and every sortie needed to be flown has flown.

"I've never seen anything like this," said Sergeant Bauer, who has served for more than 15 years. "These maintainers have done an absolutely incredible job."

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