By D.P. Heard, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 26, 2019
Staff Sgt. Emily Minton, right, and Airman 1st Class Kyle Ricker, both assigned to the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, review how to perform operational checks of radios while using the Maintenance Training System (MTS) inside the Martin Bomber Building Sept. 11, 2019, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. After being offline and unavailable as a result of the March flood, Offutt’s MTS has recently been returned to full mission capable status. (U.S. Air Force photo by D.P. Heard))
Airman 1st Class Jacob Martin, far left, and Airman 1st Class Caleb Fogle, both assigned to the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, work on routing signals through a signal generator while using the Maintenance Training System (MTS) Sept. 11, 2019, at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The MTS provides training to the 55th Maintenance Group’s electronic warfare maintainers and is almost an exact duplicate of what you would find on an RC-135V/W Rivet Joint.(U.S. Air Force photo by D.P. Heard)
Darryl Ebsch, an L-3 instructor, goes over radio frequency distribution with Airman 1st Class Jacob Martin and Airman 1st Class Tristan Patterson, both assigned to the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Sept. 11, 2019, inside the Maintenance Training Center at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. Radio frequency distribution is one of four blocks taught to electronic warfare technicians. (U.S. Air Force photo by D.P. Heard)
After being offline and unavailable as a result of the March flood, Offutt’s Maintenance Training System has recently been returned to full mission capable status.
The MTS provides training to the 55th Maintenance Group’s electronic warfare maintainers and is almost an exact duplicate of what you would find on an RC-135V/W Rivet Joint.
“The damage to the MTS meant substantial delays in training,” said Tech Sgt. Rob Young, 55th MXG NCO in-charge of the Maintenance Training Center. “But after over 7,000 man hours the system is back up to full mission capable status.”
The MTS consists of hundreds of parts, which were submerged in 54 inches of flood water. While maintainers worked to salvage as many as they could before the water could cause further damage, they had to wait for nearly three months for those parts which couldn’t be saved.
“The system was only a year old and is normally updated every two years to coincide with updates to the aircraft,” said Master Sgt. Jonathen Norton, 55th MXG’s wing avionics manager. “We need to be able to train our Airmen to work on the latest systems that have come out.”
While they waited for replacement parts, racks that are used to hold Line Replaceable Units were sterilized with bleach, washed down and sent to Greenville, Texas, for inspection by the 645th Aeronautical Systems Group, also known as Big Safari.
Once cleared, they were sent back to Offutt to be used while the maintainers waited for new racks to arrive.
“It was the first time that racks had ever been reused,” Norton said.
As maintainers continued to work on the MTS, they discovered flood waters had even damaged the wiring that runs underneath the removable floors. They responded to that challenge by pulling together a team of contractors and students who were in class at Offutt in an effort to get the system running again.
“Essentially they received on-the-job-training on how to rebuild the MTS,” Norton said.
Around that time it was discovered there was some space available inside Building D that already had raised floors and air handlers, which are needed to cool the system. The maintainers then teamed with the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron to install an antenna and other essential parts to get the MTS up and running.
“The rapid restoration of the Maintenance Training System allowed the 55th Maintenance Group to return maintenance training aircraft to flying, supporting both operational training and our wing’s mission of electronic warfare dominance,” said Chief Master Sergeant Joshua Haubold, 55th MXG superintendent.
“It absolutely would not have been possible without the tremendous teamwork between our training instructors, electronic warfare maintainers, contract partners both here at Offutt and at Greenville, and the Big Safari program offices,” he added. “It is a true testament to the resiliency and dedication of the men and women of the RC-135 community that we were able to return this critical function so quickly.”
The 55th MXG members who helped get the MTS back online included Norton, Young and Staff Sgt. Emily Minton as well as Senior Airman Thomas Long, Senior Airman Christina Weibel, Airman 1st Class Anthony Barutt, Airman 1st Class Brendan Drumm, Airman 1st Class Bonar Eliacin and Airman 1st Class Jonny Padilla from the 55th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.
In addition, contractor support came from Chuck Botdorf, Darryl Ebsch, Tom Lewis, Ron Schott and Dave Thomas.
“What these guys did was both monumental in scope and in impact,” Haubold said.