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Reserve engine shop runs full throttle

Tech. Sgt. Dustin Staude, a jet engine mechanic from the 507th Propulsion Maintenance shop, installs fan blades on an F108 engine following a 1500 flight-hour fan blade inspection Sep. 3, 2015, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The shop is responsible for inspecting and maintaining the 40 engines for the KC-135 Stratotankers in the 507th Air Refueling Wing’s inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason)

Tech. Sgt. Dustin Staude, a jet engine mechanic from the 507th Propulsion Maintenance shop, installs fan blades on an F108 engine following a 1500 flight-hour fan blade inspection Sep. 3, 2015, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The shop is responsible for inspecting and maintaining the 40 engines for the KC-135 Stratotankers in the 507th Air Refueling Wing’s inventory. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason)

Senior Airman Josh Hines and Senior Airman Adrian Condit, crew chiefs from
the 507th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, close an outboard engine cowling on a
KC-135 Stratotanker at the end of a -7 inspection Sept. 3, 2015, at Tinker Air Force
Base, Okla. All U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers require an inspection every
900 flight-hours. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason)

Senior Airman Josh Hines and Senior Airman Adrian Condit, crew chiefs from the 507th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, close an outboard engine cowling on a KC-135 Stratotanker at the end of a -7 inspection Sept. 3, 2015, at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. All U.S. Air Force KC-135 Stratotankers require an inspection every 900 flight-hours. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Lauren Gleason)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- When it comes to experience and dedication, the 507th Propulsion Maintenance shop has what it takes to maintain all of the KC-135 Stratotanker engines in the 507th Air Refueling Wing's inventory, according to Staff Sgt. Linton Riddick, engine manager with the jet engine shop here.

The 10-person shop is comprised of five Air Reserve Technicians and five traditional Reservists who are responsible for 40 F108 engines in stock. Each engine has 21 removable parts, for a grand total of 840 components that must be routinely serviced, replaced and inspected. They are also responsible for 20 auxiliary power units, or APUs, with two on each of the 10 aircraft in stock.

"We work hard and play hard, especially since now we are doing double-duty," Riddick said. "When we deploy, we can perform crew chief duties as well as jet engine maintenance."

Once the guard association ended at Tinker June 30, the crew picked up many duties that had previously been shared between the guardsmen and Reservists.

Engineers are on hand once a week to provide technical advice, as well as when any issues arise.

In most units, tool cribs are a full time additional duty. However, the engine shop maintains its own tool crib, with help from the aerospace ground equipment crew.

As engine manager, Riddick is responsible for tracking parts, managing training and analyzing data.

"I make sure all the parts in the engine are where they need to be," said Riddick. "Basically, besides the pilots, I'm the first to notice anything out of place on the engine."

The building the shop is housed in is primarily used for training and administrative tasks, because most of the work the jet engine mechanics perform is on the flight line or in a hangar, Riddick said.

"We are pretty much always busy," he said. "We aren't exactly back shop anymore.  We are needed on the flight line as much as in here.  It requires a lot of work from us and the flight line crew to get jobs done."

Inspections are a necessary aspect of the work in the jet engine shop, said Staff Sgt. Zach Longest, a jet engine mechanic with the 507th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

"Inspections are the biggest thing we do around here," said Longest. "After every 60 flight hours, the engines are inspected for chips. After 120 hours, the fuel filters are inspected. After 1500 hours, bore scope inspections must be performed."

In addition to hourly inspections, every two years the aircraft must undergo an isochronal inspection, where every component of the aircraft is inspected. The team is also responsible for performing engine runs and logging flight hours.

"We have to be precise in everything that we do to the engines," said Riddick. "Quality is paramount. This is a $3.5 million engine. We have to think about the people who are flying on the jets. "

Deployments are a regular occurrence for the Reservists. In addition to regular Reserve deployment rotations, the Airmen frequently volunteer to take deployment slots throughout the year from other bases, filling gaps where they are needed.

"In one deployment rotation, they will put as many hours on an aircraft as we will in a whole year here," said Longest. "You're replacing parts, doing hourly inspections, fixing APU's--constantly. It's non-stop, 12-hour shifts. You are everybody's flight line maintenance there."

The shop is run by highly-experienced technicians, said Longest and Riddick. Traditional Reservist Rick Thompson has 25 years of experience in jet engines through his time in the Navy, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve. Tech. Sgt. Dustin Staude is the most experienced ART in the shop. Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Mills, an ART, recently joined the crew from Altus AFB. And the newest ART, Senior Airman Tray Dorrell, has been on the team two years. Senior Master Sgt. Rodney Mesenbrink is the shop supervisor.

"If we don't do our job then the jet doesn't take off on time," said Riddick. "If that happens, then we are putting the aircrew that depends on our refueling capabilities in danger."

Morale in the shop is high according to Riddick and Longest, and people who worked there in the past often stop by to check in.

"Everybody knows everybody, because almost everybody's from Oklahoma," said Riddick, a native of North Carolina. "As Reservists, we don't move around as much. We really get to know the area and the people."

Longest said he loves being a jet engine mechanic in the military.

"My favorite part of the job being able to work on high-tech, multi-million dollar military aircraft, and knowing that what I do directly contributes to fighting the war on terrorism," said Longest. "Other than taking off, we can do everything a pilot can do from the flight deck."

Working as a mechanic in the military is good for future job prospects, according to Riddick.

"The future job outlook for engine mechanics is really good," said Riddick. "There's an abundance of jet engine jobs here in Oklahoma, and having the experience from the military is a huge leg-up for us Reservists."