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703rd AMXS Airmen keep AWACS flying

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JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Recently, eight Airmen with the 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson recovered a 962d Airborne Air Control Squadron E3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft from Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage.

The AWACS was returning Jan. 19 from a routine training mission, but was unable to land on JBER due to weather conditions. The plane went to the commercial airport, where conditions were better, and landed.

But refueling and conducting the inspections would take maintainers – so a team led by Master Sgt. Carlos Torres headed out to get the bird refueled, go over the checklists, and ensure it was airworthy, said Senior Master Sgt. Scott Davidson of the 703rd AMXS.

“The team had to coordinate with security at JBER and at Ted Stevens to go over and get access to the airfield and coordinate fuel,” he explained. “We need qualified personnel to ensure we have an airworthy aircraft to accomplish its next mission.”

Torres had quite a lot of experience in working with civilian airports from his time stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, and brought that to bear.

“I called like 100 people that morning,” he said. “That’s an exaggeration, but there was a lot of logistics there, figuring out what we needed to do on our side.”

It didn’t take long to bring all the pieces together, Torres said. Maintenance Airmen went out to meet the crew and figure out the way forward.

“Everybody here was really receptive and wanted to get it done,” he explained. “The crew for the next mission just did their training mission out of Ted Stevens. We launched them out of Ted Stevens, drove back over here to JBER, got our things together, and ended up meeting them and catching the airplane here.”

While the team made it look easy, it wasn’t usual, Torres said.

“It was definitely out of the norm for us to coordinate all of that, for sure; it took connecting all the dots. I was lucky enough to have experience doing it before, and was able to transfer it to Anchorage, but I still learned a lot.”

Torres credits Director of Operations Lt. Col. Clint Hammer of the 962d with making things easier.

“One of the biggest things for us is a great relationship with Col. [Clint] Hammer. He checks up on us, and that good relationship we have is one of the things that helps.”

But it took the whole team to make the operation a fairly seamless transition, Torres said.

“Everyone had such a big part of it, everybody worked really hard that day. We had such a small team, everyone had quite a load to deal with. Their positive attitude and ability to adapt was really good.”

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