909th AMU integral to Pacific mission success
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- As the 10 wheels bearing the enormous weight of the KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft are pulled into the sky from the hot flightline, the Airmen watching the jet launch all breathe a silent sigh of relief.
For seemingly endless hours each day under the hot Okinawan sun, maintainers from the 909th Aircraft Maintenance Unit inspect, bolt, grease and polish an assortment of parts and pieces to ensure this moment goes off without a hitch every time - many people's lives depend on it.
"It's an adrenaline rush," said Senior Airman Andrew Gulvas, 909th AMU crew chief. "I love knowing the maintenance you did with whomever you worked with is the reason that jet made it off the line."
With a mission that supports aircraft from all over the region - both U.S. and coalition forces alike - Gulvas said ensuring the jet gets off the line is important to more than just Kadena.
"We run the Pacific," he explained about the 909th Air Refueling Squadron and maintainers responsible for the aircraft. "The bombers wouldn't get anywhere; the fighters wouldn't reach where they need to go. Everything in the Pacific depends on this unit."
Gulvas said the AMU supports a multitude of operations for the aircraft on the flightline, often leading to a packed schedule for the group of Airmen.
"[On any given day], we get to work, get tools, perform roll call and work through pre-flights, through-flights, landers, tows, refuels, defuels ... and in between, if there's any scheduled maintenance, we take care of that too," Gulvas said.
Despite the innumerable tasks laid out in front of each maintainer, Airman 1st Class Jamal Mitchell, also a crew chief for the 909th AMU, said getting the job done is what it's all about.
"When a jet's broken, and it's a pretty big task, you get a proud feeling as a mechanic to get that job done, because you're counted on to get that jet where it needs to be," Mitchell said. "It's a great sense of responsibility and accomplishment to do well on a job. People rely on you."