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Maintaining the Pace

Air Commando maintainers keep Cannon’s mission on course during pandemic.

Senior Airman Moises Aguilar, a crew chief assigned to the 16th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, marshals an AC-130W Stinger II aircraft on the flight line at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, April 21, 2020. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Cannon’s flying mission continues to operate at its normal pace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Daigle)

Air Commando maintainers keep Cannon’s mission on course during pandemic.

Maintenance Airmen and contractors with the 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron service a CV-22 Osprey aircraft engine at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, April 22, 2020. To reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, shift times for Cannon’s maintenance professionals have been changed to limit contact between personnel on different shifts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Daigle)

Air Commando maintainers keep Cannon’s mission on course during pandemic.

Senior Airman Joshua Ault, a crew chief assigned to the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, assists a CV-22 Osprey aircraft aircrew member with pre-flight checks at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, April 22, 2020. Maintenance Airmen at Cannon have adopted a host of precautions to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19 while still supporting the base’s operational mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Daigle)

Air Commando maintainers keep Cannon’s mission on course during pandemic.

Airman 1st Class Diante Lowe, a crew chief assigned to the 3rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, performs maintenance on an aircraft at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, April 23, 2020. Newer and less experienced maintenance Airmen at Cannon have taken on increased roles and responsibilities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Daigle)

Air Commando maintainers keep Cannon’s mission on course during pandemic.

Airman Gabriel Wollitz, left, and Senior Airman Seth Piontek, both crew chiefs assigned to the 3rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, escort a MQ-9 Reaper aircraft as it is being towed across the flight line at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico, April 23, 2020. Maintenance Airmen at Cannon have taken steps to remain as physically distant from each other as possible while continuing to support the base’s flying mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Maxwell Daigle)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, NM. --

By now, it’s clear that the COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most unprecedented events in modern times. The shockingly devastating and tragic effects of the virus have touched every corner of the planet grounding governments, economies, and the daily lives of people everywhere to a harrowing halt.

However, ask anyone in the 27th Special Operations Maintenance Group about how the pandemic has affected the flying mission here, and they will describe a much different clip than most of the world is moving at today.

“The tempo of operations here hasn’t really slowed down at all,” said Tech. Sgt. Garry King, expeditor for the 20th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, 727th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “There have been some adjustments, but it’s still business as usual in terms of how much we fly.”

To ensure the mission can continue, the Air Commando maintainers here have stepped up to the challenge of keeping Cannon’s aircraft ready to take to the sky despite the threat COVID-19 poses

While it is not easy to continue flying in the midst of a pandemic, the importance of keeping the base mission operational is absolutely necessary.


“You just can’t shut the mission down,” said Master Sgt. Jesse French, head of the crew chief section for 16 AMU, 27 SOAMXS. “There are aircraft here that need to be on alert status, and there are training missions that need to happen as well.”

It hasn’t been without sacrifice on their part however. Squadrons across the 27 SOMXG have made significant changes to how it’s maintainers accomplish their tasks, such as adjustments to the hours they work and the manpower available at any given time. They have also altered the way they handle shift changes.

“We get almost everyone on the first shift out of the door half an hour before the other shift shows up,” said Staff Sgt. Lindsey McCormick, a crew chief with 16 AMU, 27 SOAMXS. “That way if somebody on one shift tests positive and we have to quarantine everyone they worked with, it won’t force the other shift into quarantine as well and push our manning to the breaking point.”

Another big difference from the pre-pandemic standard has been the experience levels of maintainers working on aircraft after it comes back from travelling.

“For crew chiefs to travel somewhere on aircraft as part of the aircrew, they have to have certain experience levels,” said French. “When that aircraft comes back from it’s destination, the crew chief has to go into two week of self-monitoring, and that puts more pressure on the younger, more inexperienced guys.”

These precautions are on top of the mandated use of face masks, physical distancing, deep cleaning, and other universal safety measures the 27 SOMXG has adopted, which all combine to make day-to-day taskings more challenging in what can already be a stressful environment under normal circumstances.

But much like the workload they normally handle, these difficult times have not affected the mindset of Cannon’s maintenance professionals.

“Honestly, I don’t handle these days any differently than I do any other day,” said Staff Sgt. Devin Truesdell, an aerospace propulsion specialist with 16 AMU, 27 SOAMXS. “When I’m working, I just handle my business and don’t let the thought of (COVID-19) sit in my head.”

When it is all said and done, the COVID-19 pandemic is sure to be remembered as a terrible tragedy, but among the silver linings that arise from it will be the lessons learned and experience gained by the Air Commando maintainers.

“Being that this (pandemic) is unprecedented, the fact that we’re still getting aircraft off the ground shows that we will always find a way, a safe way, to get the mission done,” said King. “And in the future when we face problems, we’ll remember these times and know that we built the experience and resolve to overcome anything.