934th maintainers undeterred by Maple Flag's challenges

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Matthew Burke
  • Maple Flag Public Affairs
One of the biggest challenges for members of the 934th Airlift Wing participating in this year's Maple Flag exercise had nothing to do with preparation, experience of the crews or availability of aircraft. The greatest obstacle turned out to be gray skies, low cloud ceilings, poor visibility and persistent rain at Edmonton International Airport and Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, Canada, where the exercise was held from May 24 to June 7.

he members of the 934th AW were not deterred though.
As is the case with any large-scale training activity, the more moving parts there are, the more opportunities for issues and complications. Unforeseen circumstances, such as the heavy amount of rainfall that Edmonton experienced the weekend prior to Maple Flag, can complicate even the most sound maintenance plan.
"We had some water get into one of the sensors causing the wheel well to overheat," said Staff Sgt. George Smith, crew chief from the 934th Airlift Wing. "We repaired it quickly, but unfortunately the formation needed to take off [while the aircraft was been serviced]."

Eight C-130 aircraft and service members from Minneapolis Air Reserve Station, Minnesota; Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, New York; Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia; and Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado participated in Maple Flag which combines these diverse units and creates an environment where interoperation is vital.
During an exercise that is so dependent on flying, it can be easy to overlook the maintenance crews that play a vital role in making sure the planes are ready to fly. The crews arrive early in the morning to prepare the aircraft for the pilots. The maintenance crew then awaits the return of the aircraft to refuel and handle any discrepancies that occur during the flight.

"(Maple Flag) gives us more practice, because we're not operating out of our normal facilities," said Smith. "Having to work out of smaller areas, coordinating with other units on tools that they brought created an environment that is very similar to being deployed (overseas)."

Maple Flag prepares participants for global operations, enables joint operations training, and fosters multi-national coordination and cooperation. The exercise includes command and control, air-to-air and air-to-surface operations, air-to-air refueling, airborne early warning and control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, tactical airlift and tactical aviation.

"As we draw down from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it will be critical going forward to have exercises like this," said Col. Todd McCubbin, 934th Airlift Wing commander. "(Maple Flag) helps keep us combat ready, and ensures that we are an unrivaled wingman for the active duty."

Maple Flag's day to day operations improved in a short period of time, primarily due to strong leadership and the continued flexibility of everyone involved with the exercise. Members from the 934th AW overcame challenges with unfavorable weather conditions, maintenance concerns, and scheduling conflicts with the host nation.

"I'm very proud of the job our operators and maintainers have done at Maple Flag," said McCubbin. "Our airplanes flew well and the crews are received a lot of valuable training. I'm very happy with the way things have gone."