86th AMXS performs on-the-spot maintenance to keep mission going

Story and photos by Senior Airman Kenny Holston
Ramstein Public Affairs

With the constant hum of C-130 engines, the smell of JP-8 jet fuel and a long stretch of flightline, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintainers are right at home working on Ramstein’s C-130 fleet.

The slogan “pull the chalks, maintenance rocks,” displayed on the front of Bldg. 2220, shows the 86th AMXS has one goal – keeping Ramstein’s aging C-130 fleet flying high to support whatever mission lies ahead.

The 86th AMXS is unique in that they don’t just perform routine maintenance; 86th AMXS personnel are in direct support of launching and recovering C-130 Hercules aircraft and ensuring any maintenance necessary can be performed at a moment’s notice.

“Conducting a mission like ours keeps us on our toes,” said Staff Sgt. Giovanni Bosch, 86th AMXS crew chief. “We keep planes in the air and have the capabilities and the know-how to perform maintenance on them with very little notice.”

While the majority of personnel are divided into two different fields – crew chiefs and specialists – their goals are the same.

“Crew chiefs and specialists are two different breeds of animal, but we are all striving to reach the same result,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Harrower, 86th AMXS communication navigation specialist. “That goal is to keep each aircraft


The No. 1 focus for 86th AMXS members is being prepared for emergency situations, also referred to as a “red ball.”

A red ball is any maintenance issue that comes up prior to an aircraft launch or during flight.

“Red ball issues automatically become top priority for us,” Sergeant Harrower said. “Problems such as these are why we must stay alert and ready. If we are not on our game, it’s possible that whatever mission that aircraft is supporting may suffer.”

Not only does the 86th AMXS take care of Ramstein’s C-130 fleet, it also has the responsibility of maintaining the 86th Airlift Wing commander’s C-130.

“Being trusted to maintain Brig. Gen. (Bill) Bender’s C-130 is an honor,” Sergeant Bosch said. “This aircraft was made in 1964, so it can be challenging to maintain from time to time. But we are always up for the task.”

The job the 86th AMXS members perform also directly affects the mission of 37th Airlift Squadron pilots.

“We really rely and lean on the 86th AMXS folks,” said Capt. Dick Janssen, 37th Airlift Squadron C-130 pilot. “They keep 40-plus-year-old planes flying-worthy. It’s definitely a very difficult task and they do it extremely well.”

The 86th AMXS conducts around-the-clock maintenance.

“Those guys are constantly out performing 24-hour operations,  ensuring the aircraft are ready for each mission,” Captain Janssen said. “There’s no way we could fly without them doing the great job they do.”

Though performing 24-hour operations is demanding, these Airmen are proud of what they do.

“These maintainers are constantly performing their duties in all types of weather without complaint,”

said Master Sgt. Jon Welch, 86th AMXS first sergeant. “Rain or shine, they get the job done, but even with such a work load, everyone’s spirits are always high. We all take great pride in the job we do.”

With one of Ramstein’s biggest missions being the C-130 flying mission, 86th AMXS maintainers respect and understand the vast importance of their role in making the mission possible.

“If we didn’t perform the tasks we do, Ramstein would be at a standstill,” Sergeant Harrower said. “Our job is strenuous and we put a lot of selfless hours in, but getting to see our efforts triumph when each aircraft takes off is all worth it.”