By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Sept. 26, 2002) -- Wings around the Air Force are creating maintenance groups as part of a move toward the new combat wing organization structure.
The changes are in accordance with a recent directive by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper that maintenance groups be stood up and have attained initial operational capability by Oct. 1.
The new maintenance groups will replace existing logistics groups and will concentrate on performing core maintenance tasks: fixing aircraft and generating sorties, said the chief of Air Force base-level maintenance policy.
"One of the reasons for the change to the new combat wing organization was to focus each of the groups in the wing on their core capability," said Maj. A. Neal Robinson. "We didn't want the operations group commander to worry about both flying and fixing aircraft or have the logistics group commander worry about just one part of maintenance. The purpose of the maintenance group is to focus on maintaining aircraft and balancing sortie production with the long-term health of aging fleets."
The maintenance group structure will meet three objectives associated with the new combat wing organization, Robinson said.
"We hope to bring all of maintenance under one career maintenance professional, to allow the maintenance group to focus on its core competency, maintaining aircraft and generating sorties, and to better support the expeditionary air and space concept," he said.
One benefit of moving all maintainers under one maintenance professional is enhanced mentorship, Robinson said.
"Bringing maintenance under a maintenance professional has benefits in terms of how you control maintenance and in setting priorities, but it also facilitates mentoring for both officers and enlisted members," Robinson said.
"You will have a colonel who has grown up in the maintenance world, and he or she will be able to teach the nuances of maintenance to new officers. Also, maintenance officers can expect a clear career progression within one group. In terms of enlisted folks, the same parallel exists," he said.
According to Robinson, the creation of maintenance groups has involved organizational and administrative changes.
Two such adjustments are that the logistics support squadron will be renamed the maintenance operations squadron, and that flightline aircraft maintainers and their associated support personnel currently assigned to flying squadrons will be reassigned to the newly created aircraft maintenance squadrons.
Maintenance specialists currently assigned to either component or equipment maintenance squadrons will remain in those squadrons if the total number of specialists exceeds 700. For wings with less than 700 off-aircraft maintenance personnel, a single maintenance squadron will be formed.
One issue addressed during the planning of the restructuring was the relationship between aircraft operators and the maintenance personnel who work within their flying squadrons, Robinson said.
"We knew early on that the connection between operations and maintenance must remain strong," he said. "One of the concerns we had was that if you segregate the groups, you may lose the teamwork and synergy that's created between those organizations. But over the past few months, there was a concerted effort to keep them teamed. Operators and maintainers will train and fight together."
According to Robinson, on-aircraft maintenance personnel will be assigned to aircraft maintenance units within the new aircraft maintenance squadron. Each AMU will be aligned with a flying squadron and will carry that squadron's colors and number designator.
"Your AMU will be assigned to the AMXS, but you will directly team with the fighter squadron," Robinson said. "If your AMU supports the 27th Fighter Squadron, your AMU will be designated the 27th AMU. That's one way to keep them connected."