19th AMXS maintains ops with minimal manning during COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Jayden Ford
  • 19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- When the emergence of COVID-19 swept across the nation, the 19th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron was already operating at reduced manning levels with almost a quarter of the unit deployed. Social distancing and mitigation efforts to preserve the health of the force cut that number in half.

Tasked with maintaining and servicing one of the largest C-130J fleets in the world, the 19th AMXS established a plan to safeguard their Airmen while simultaneously completing critical training and maintaining normal operations with a quarter of their manning.

“We essentially have a little over half of our team left at the squadron after Airmen from our unit joined the 61st Airlift Squadron on a recent deployment,” said Tech. Sgt. Sam Bishop, 19th AMXS flightline expediter. “The Airmen who stayed at home station were then split again due to COVID-19 — some help out by flying and performing scheduled maintenance while other groups are training.”

Devised by all echelons of leadership within the squadron, the plan actively sought input and feedback from frontline Airmen to ensure the new schedule ran smoothly and effectively.

“The plan put into place for our operations during COVID-19 was a collective collaboration between our leadership, senior NCOs and the lead technicians,” Bishop said. “Our leadership charged the lead technicians to figure out whether or not we can support this plan and gave ideas on the best way to move forward.”

Even amidst a global pandemic, junior Airmen still needed essential on-the-job training to better accomplish their assigned tasks in a safe and effective manner.

“One of our challenges was training our new Airmen while maintaining operations with the manning we had,” Bishop said. “We have a lot of new personnel who are not yet qualified to work independently. The few people we do have who are qualified are having to train the Airmen to get them up to par to help support the mission.”

Master Sgt. Michael Pearson, a 19th AMXS production superintendent, acknowledged that leadership within the squadron understood right away the importance of caring for their Airmen more than ever due to possible isolation people may feel from COVID-related restrictions.

“It took some adapting at all levels,” he said. “We've been doing our best to try to accommodate and help everyone through the changes, that way we know their mind is in the game and we are completing the mission safely.”

“General Giulio Douhet once famously stated, ‘Flexibility is the key to airpower,’” said Lt. Col. Donald Hudson, 19th AMXS commander.

“That’s just what aircraft maintainers do and that’s when they’re at their very best,” Hudson added. “They make it happen; and they absolutely make you proud when they not only figure out how to get past that challenge, but also improve upon how we actually execute that mission when faced with a challenge.”