DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. --
Four 512th Airlift Wing maintainers, who normally work on cargo aircraft on Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, are currently in New York repairing an air refueling aircraft.
The 512th AW reservists answered Fourth Air Force’s call to aid the 914th Air Refueling Wing with sheet metal repairs on a KC-135R Stratotanker at Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, N.Y., and have been on site since Jan. 11.
“A number of bases replied,” said Senior Master Sgt. Adam Colaprete, 512th Maintenance Squadron Fabrication Flight chief. “There were a lot of potential candidates who wanted to go up there and assist.”
Master Sgt. Michael George, 914th MXS noncommissioned officer in charge, said he was surprised at the immediate response from volunteers.
“It’s true that when you need something, your family will answer,” said George.
The repair project is a joint effort between Team Dover’s selected maintainers and three other reservists from Tinker AFB, Oklahoma.
Colaprete, who is a full-time air reserve technician, said he referred Master Sgt. Lawrence Tungol, Tech. Sgt. Wesley Smith and Staff Sgts. Orion Thomas and Garnett Plummer for the job, because he knew each of them would be able to successfully perform the repairs on the KC-135R.
Some of the work includes providing maintenance on three horizontal, stabilizer balance panels and fixing three fuselage dents.
The aircraft structural maintenance technicians have 30 collective years of military service and experience in civilian sector maintenance careers, said Tungol.
Two of the 512th AW’s traditional reservists work in maintenance fields for the Navy and another serves in the aerospace industry. A couple of them have also worked as contractors in the C-5M Super Galaxy Isochronal Inspection Dock at Dover AFB.
“Three of the four are proven phenomenal technicians,” said Colaprete. “I added in the lowest ranking maintainer, because he did a phenomenal job while he was here learning; and, I wanted him to learn more.”
Tungol said Dover’s reservists have demonstrated their team’s mission readiness through their acclimation to unfamiliar tools and working in cooler temperatures.
“They jumped in like they’ve been here forever," said George.
“It’s a lot of fun, but we’re still about business and getting things done,” added Tungol.
Based on updates from Niagara, Colaprete said repairs of the Stratotanker are steadily progressing.
Once all of the repairs on the KC-135R are completed, the aircraft is scheduled to be transferred to Tinker AFB for depot maintenance.
The KC-135 has been providing aerial refueling capabilities for the Air Force for over 60 years in support of the Air Mobility Command’s mission to provide rapid and global mobility and sustainment for America’s armed forces. The Stratotanker has also been altered to perform other jobs such as flying command post missions and reconnaissance.
If the repairs conclude ahead of schedule, Colaprete said there’s a possibility the volunteers may assist with additional maintenance at Niagara, which would sustain the rapport Dover’s reservists have built there.
“Niagara [Falls ARS] is talking about having us come up on a more-routine annual tour basis to help them out throughout the year,” said Colaprete. “Annual tours and additional assist efforts with Niagara would afford the 512th AW and Dover AFB the ability to take advantage of the knowledge, techniques and technologies of bigger units.”
George, the 914th MXS’ NCO in charge, said if they ever put out another call for assistance, or have anything else big, they know they can count on the 512th AW.