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Story by A1C Michael Murphy on 08/11/2019
With a 185 foot-wide-B-52 Stratofortress in front of him and a star-filled sky above, Senior Airman Dillain Lapolice, 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsion journeyman, was beginning his shift at the start of dusk. Moths were fluttering around the floodlights directed at the stratofortess, the only source of light for the maintainer as he prepared to work.
Lapolice primarily completes most of his work on the long-range bomber’s engines.
“If the engines don’t start, she doesn’t go up,” said Lapolice. “This work isn’t fast. The guys who work during the night are there to complete work that maintainers during the day are not able to complete in depth.”
Andersen has based a rotation of B-1B Lancers, B-52 Stratofortesses and B-2 Spirits since 2004 to maintain a continuous bomber presence in the Indo-Pacific, which provides assurances of U.S. support to our allies and enables a steady posture of vigilant readiness, maintaining an environment of peace in the region.
Lapolice stated that flying missions are primarily launched during the day, and that the result of maintaining a continuous presence during the day results in continuous need of repairs on the B-52, which has been flying since 1954.
“If they go up green, and they come down broke, we’re here to keep the mission going by fixing that aircraft,” said Lapolice.
Lapolice, along with spread of other maintainers, can cover a range of repairs in a moment’s notice. Nightshift maintainers regularly perform quality assurance inspections, external repairs on aircraft on the frame of the aircraft, wheels, hydraulics, electronics, along with the interior to support aircrew who fly the missions.
“You do all that work over a period of time, and as soon as you see the wheels coming off the ground, not only does it look cool, but a sense of pride comes over you,” said Airman 1st Class Liam Varney, 69th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief. “You did everything you could and that aircraft is flying. Whether it’s going up for a practice flight or for something serious, there is just a feeling that comes along with it. It’s just rewarding.”
Airman 1st Class Jannette Juarez, 36 EAMXS aircraft armament systems specialist, says that even if it’s a crew chief performing a preflight check, an APJ working on an engine, or a weapons specialist loading munitions onto an aircraft, they all do it together.
“Everyone has their own job, but we help each other,” said Juarez. “We all have the same mission. We are all trying to get the same thing done. We are always ready.”