Maintaining tip-top barriers

***image1***Hidden out in the woods, about two miles west of Ramstein, is a small shop of 20 Airmen answering the call to fly, fight and win.

The men and women of the Command Aircraft Arresting System Depot in the 86th Construction and Training Squadron, are charged with protecting lives and aircraft by ensuring that U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s barriers are in perfect condition.

Each barrier in the command’s inventory receives a 10-year overhaul maintenance. 

“Overhaul maintenance is when we replace every nut and bolt of the machine, scraping it down to bare metal and build it into a like-new machine,” said Master Sgt. Francisco Hernandez, the flight’s superintendent.

“The meticulous assembly takes 14 Airmen and one to two months to complete one system. We can’t make mistakes putting these back together, so we have numerous checks by supervisors to ensure it’s right,” said Lt. Col. Peter Sartori, 86th CTS commander.

Besides saving lives, the unit’s ability to perform its depot operation saves thousands of dollars annually. The systems operate with B-52 Stratofortress brakes, which cost about $52,000 new. The unit is able to overhaul these brakes for about $12,000, for a savings of $40,000.

***image2***Depot technicians are the only personnel authorized by USAFE’s regulations to certify an installed arresting system as operational. “Even though 10 years between overhauls seems like a long time, with 58 systems in the command, we have at least one system being worked on at all times,” said Sergeant Hernandez.

Overhauls are not the only things that keep this small shop busy. Because they are USAFE’s experts, they conduct annual staff assistance visits to eight USAFE bases, helping the local shops maintain their proficiencies. The depot is also the “Queen Bee” supply, maintaining an ample supply of tapes, cables and motors for emergencies.

“Last month, a tape was badly needed at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. They ordered a replacement from the States, but due to delivery times, it wouldn’t arrive on time. We were able to get one there right away and prevent shutting down the runway,” explained Colonel Sartori.  

But even with all those missions, there is still one more critical mission, they perform for European Command and USAFE. They install mobile systems to support air shows, exercises and real world missions. In 2006, they installed a barrier in Lithuania to provide support for a presidential mission. They provided protection for the F-16 Falcons and pilots, while in turn the F-16 were protecting the president during a visit to Moscow.

(Courtesy of the 86th Construction and Training Squadron)