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340th AMU: “Turning fuel into freedom”

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Left to right: Lt. Col. Scott Fike, 379th Expeditonary Maintenance Group vice commander, and Tech. Sgt. Kevin Kuehn, 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit specialist expeditor, analyze and discuss a hydraulic fluid leak on a KC-135. The aircraft was venting to relieve pressure caused by the excessive heat. The KC-135 is allowed to "leak" to a certain limit according to maintenance technical data. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Left to right: Lt. Col. Scott Fike, 379th Expeditonary Maintenance Group vice commander, and Tech. Sgt. Kevin Kuehn, 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit specialist expeditor, analyze and discuss a hydraulic fluid leak on a KC-135. The aircraft was venting to relieve pressure caused by the excessive heat. The KC-135 is allowed to "leak" to a certain limit according to maintenance technical data. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Senior Airman Mike McGovern, deployed from Grand Forks Air Force Base, ND, to the 340th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, performs a tool inventory following a recovery operation of a KC-135. While it may seem a meainingless task, tool inventory is a vital part of aircraft maintenance. Even the smallest socket could cause thousands of dollars worth of damage, waste hundreds of man hours and endanger lives if not accounted for. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Senior Airman Mike McGovern, deployed from Grand Forks Air Force Base, ND, to the 340th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, performs a tool inventory following a recovery operation of a KC-135. While it may seem a meainingless task, tool inventory is a vital part of aircraft maintenance. Even the smallest socket could cause thousands of dollars worth of damage, waste hundreds of man hours and endanger lives if not accounted for. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Senior Airman Mike McGovern, deployed to the 340th AMU from Grand Forks AFB, ND, places a cover on an air data probe of a KC-135. The cover prevents foreign objects from damaging and pluggin the air data probe so taht the pilots receive accurate and vital information. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Senior Airman Mike McGovern, deployed to the 340th AMU from Grand Forks AFB, ND, places a cover on an air data probe of a KC-135. The cover prevents foreign objects from damaging and pluggin the air data probe so taht the pilots receive accurate and vital information. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Senior Airman Mike McGovern (center), 340th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, marshalls a KC-135 to its parking spot with Tech. Sgt. Robert Wade (left) and Senior Airman Neal Sicard (right) standing by ready to place chocks around the tires of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Senior Airman Mike McGovern (center), 340th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, marshalls a KC-135 to its parking spot with Tech. Sgt. Robert Wade (left) and Senior Airman Neal Sicard (right) standing by ready to place chocks around the tires of the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Jason Barebo)

SOUTHWEST ASIA -- With more than 20 KC-135s, members of the 340th Aircraft Maintenance Unit here provide invaluable support to the Global War on Terror.

During the past four months, members of the 340th AMU supported more than 3,200 sorties, which in turn provided 107 million pounds of fuel to more than 14,000 aircraft in support of GWOT.

The 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron flies between 20-30 flights, or sorties, a day, said Tech. Sgt. Kevin Kuehn, the Specialist Flight expeditor for night shift.

"We have more planes here than we have parking spots for, so we always have aircraft in the air," said Sergeant Kuehn, who is deployed here from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D.

As maintenance professionals perform their launch and recovery procedures, flightline operations appear normal for a deployed location.

However, it isn't long until one discovers things are not always as they seem.
Keeping in mind everyone's morale and welfare, the 340th AMU supervision developed a new system to keep everyone out of the heat as much possible. Each member of the Specialist Flight has been trained to launch and recover aircraft.

"It takes a few launch and recovery operations to fully train one of our guys," Sergeant Kuehn said. "This is the only base where the entire specialist flight performs launch and recovery, not only in the area of responsibility, but also Air Force wide."

"This squadron is a key to the persistent, unblinking and lethal airpower we need across the AOR to keep our combat edge in a very tough fight," said Colonel Robert Gass, 379th Expeditionary Maintenance group commander.

To provide full coverage for maintenance and flying, the 340th AMU has overlapping shifts, one beginning at Midnight and another at 10:30 a.m. with turnovers arriving 12-hours later.

"Normally (specialists) launch the jets here and the crew chiefs recover," said Tech. Sgt. Robert Wade, 340th AMU and deployed from MacDill AFB.

The beginning of the shift is usually fairly light, Sergeant Kuehn said. Most of the take-offs occur midday and don't land for the day until late at night.

The majority of the 340th's flying is conducted during the day leaving most of the maintenance up to the night crews.

And though the aircraft may not breakdown often, when they break - they break
"If you aren't launching or recovering jets out here, you're working maintenance issues," Sergeant Kuehn said.

All in all, the members of the 340th AMU support more than 90 percent of U.S. aircraft assigned throughout the AOR by "turning fuel into freedom."