Fix em’ up, send em’ back
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Every year, about two dozen A-10 Thunderbolt II engines take off and land on the Kadena AB flightline, but no one seems to take notice.
Rather than being fired up for each flight, they are carefully loaded onto a cargo aircraft and sent back home to the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan AB, Republic of Korea.
It’s up to the Airmen of the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron TF-34 section to take apart each engine, piece-by-piece, to keep them in top shape.
“We have a really unique circumstance over here because we don't get to see our engines in action every day,” said Tech. Sgt. Robert Ryan Slovensky, 18th CMS assistant section chief. “It’s also a bit of a challenge for us to communicate with our partners in South Korea, because we aren’t able to communicate face-to-face.”
To make up for the 750-mile distance between units, Airmen are constantly on the phone and emailing photos back and forward in order to best understand the condition and needs of their assigned engines.
Approximately 80 percent of the engines sent to Kadena AB arrive for a regular tune-up and the remainder come here for specialized service in order to help troubleshoot a problem.
Journeyman and craftsman-rated Airmen conduct thorough engine inspections, followed by a final examination from a quality assurance specialist, to ensure the engines are war-ready.
“In this line of work, you need to be on your A-game 24/7 because if anything goes wrong internally or any kind of minor mistake goes unnoticed, it can result in engine failure,” said Slovensky. “Day-in and day-out, our guys have got to be sharp.”
The repair facility bears not only responsibility as a critical role for Osan A-10 maintainence, the shop is also responsible for providing operational experience for Airmen who have only completed their technical training.
“Our three-level Airmen [apprentices] come here and we have to start from bare-bones scratch,” said Slovensky. “We go over the basic tools and assign them tasks while under close supervision. It’s on us to get them proficient and ready for their next assignment.”
While the TF-34 engine technicians here don’t get to see the immediate results of their hard work every day, gratification comes in a variety of forms.
“Every now and then we’ll see some really cool pictures of A-10s showing up on the news,” said Senior Airman Osniel Garcia, 18th CMS aerospace propulsion journeyman. “It’s always humbling when we see that, because it can’t fly and do its mission without us. That kind of thing is pretty motivating because it reminds us exactly of why we're here.”
The A-10 engines maintained at Kadena empower the 25th FS to sustain a long-standing presence on the Korean Peninsula, contributing to the protection of more than 50 million people and the defense of a U.S.-allied nation.
“The satisfaction that I think we get in the back shop is just producing our motors as safely and reliably as possible and knowing that the mission in South Korea depends on us,” said Slovensky.
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