86 MXG: Empowering innovation

A C-130J Super Hercules aircraft undergoes maintenance at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, Nov. 15, 2021. There are 14 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 86th Airlift Wing. The 86th Maintenance Group is responsible for ensuring they can be in the air at a moment’s notice. 

Many believe maintenance is what keeps the world going — from vehicles, buildings, your home and everything else in between. If no one keeps up with repairs, failure is imminent.

Everything needs tender loving care to stay operational and the U.S. Air Force and its aircraft are no different. If maintenance professionals do not keep everything tight, there will not be flight.

The 86th Maintenance Group operates out of Ramstein Air Base, and it’s one of the busiest maintenance units in the Air Force. They play a pivotal part in Ramstein’s role as a Global Gateway to Europe and beyond.

With the 86th Airlift Wing’s fleet of C-130J Super Hercules, C-21s, and C-37s, the wing provides U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s only airlift, airdrop, and aeromedical evacuation capabilities.

The 86 AW’s C-130Js have the highest utilization rate in the Air Force, and the 86 MXG is solely responsible for keeping the aircraft ready for anything.

“At a moment’s notice we provide air power for whatever the needs of the Air Force are at that time,” said Master Sgt. Reid Beimling, 86th Maintenance Squadron Maintenance Operation Center section chief. “We keep all of our aircraft flight-worthy because we never know when or where they might be needed. Readiness is key to our mission.”

The 86 MXG is critical to the success of the 86th AW’s mission. If they could not bring their skill set to the table, much of the Global Gateway mission would come to a standstill.

“We are absolutely vital to the 86th Airlift Wing mission,” Beimling said. “We are here to ensure the success of any airlift operations anywhere, at any time. If we do not do our jobs the mission would come to a halt. As the world has seen multiple times in recent years, we are very good at our jobs.”

Recent large-scale operations, such as Operation Allies Welcome, put strain on many of the units across the 86 AW. The 86 MXG had a critical role in the operation while continuing their day-to-day mission.

“We were involved in much of the recent operation,” said Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Molina, 86 MXG lead maintenance superintendent. “We installed cots, sleeping bags and used our war reserve materials to ensure the evacuees were cared for. Not only that, we oversaw the initial bed down and installed heaters throughout the pods.”

Like many operations of the past, innovation was the key to success. The 86 MXG leadership strives to empower Airmen to come up with innovative and unique solutions to make their fleet run smoother.

“It is always amazing to see what our Airmen can think of and how they can use it to better our force,” said 1st Lt. Alexander Norton, the 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. “I think it is extremely important for us to ensure our Airmen are heard and their ideas are considered. You never know who is going to walk through our doors with a great idea that can change how we do business.”

The 86 MXG relies heavily on innovation and new technologies to keep them at the top of their game. Norton and others not only believe empowering innovation is important, but facilitating it as well.

“We are in a critical time in our force’s history,” Norton said. “We rely on every individual in our unit to bring their hard work and dedication to the table. We have some of the most talented and driven individuals in the Air Force under our roof and it would be a great disservice to not only them, but ourselves and the entire Air Force if we let them go unheard. I am proud to serve with them and I am passionate about our people. I cannot wait to see what they do next.”