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Teamwork gets C-130 flying in record time

A St. Joseph Missouri, 139th Airlift Wing, Mo. Air National Guard C-130 flying.

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BAGRAM AIRFIELD, AFGHANISTAN -- -- A Minnesota Reserve C-130 returned to Bagram Air Field minus a few parts. It also had a gaping hole in the underbelly thanks to a landing attempt at a forward operating base. For the 455th Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU), sheet metal shop, this meant a 300 hour repair estimate. But, thanks to a tremendous team effort, the repair was completed in 120 hours.

When the plane landed at Bagram it was impounded pending a situational investigation. Members of the 455th AMU sheet metal shop knew that they had their work cut out for them. The 455th consists of deployed Airmen from multiple units around the world.

The missing parts consisted of antennas and the hole was a 90x6 inch tear in the skin and secondary structure of the left wheel well, aft of the fairing.

"I figured the whole sheet metal crew had a lot of hard work ahead," said Tech. Sgt. Stephen Kirkpatrick, sheet metal technician, Kentucky Air National Guard.

The repair process was divided into sections with the evening shift taking on the damage to the fairing and the morning shift repairing the hole in the belly of the aircraft.

"It was tough working in the cold, dark and windy conditions," commented Tech. Sgt. Joseph Mejia, sheet metal technician, Missouri Air National Guard. "We all worked as a team to get that aircraft up and running, we knew that people were counting on us."

As the time ticked away on the 300 hour estimated time of completion, the sheet metal crew could see their plan coming together. They cut the damaged parts out and removed over 1,000 rivets. What should have been a temporary repair ended up looking like something that came from the factory.

"We had to fabricate our own parts as we don't have a proper sheet metal shop in this deployed location," said Senior Airman Robert Bowling, sheet metal technician, Kentucky Air National Guard. "Metal was cut and bent; we made use of the facilities the civilians here at Bagram had available."

"On our last day of work, both shifts met in the middle where we finished installing the flush patch," Kirkpatrick said. "It was an excellent experience working with the guys from the 139th, the bond that we formed is something I can carry with me for the rest of my Air Force career."

The fact that three separate units were working together didn't hinder the job in the least.

"Structural maintenance members from Kentucky, Minnesota and Missouri worked together on two shifts as a team," Master Sgt. Brent Proffitt said. Proffitt, the lead sheet metal technician for the team, was impressed. "Everyone involved in the repair process displayed professionalism and a great attitude, which ultimately contributed to the timely completion."

"This maintenance repair was nothing short of remarkable," said 1st Lieutenant James Embry, Kentucky Air National guard. "It was truly a colossal effort by a sheet metal team from various locations that made evident, with the right plan, anything is possible."

As a result of this tremendous effort, coins were awarded to the structural maintenance team by Major General Edward Tonini, Adjutant General of the Kentucky National Guard.