KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
The Air Force Reserve’s 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, is home to two flying units, the 815th Airlift Squadron “Flying Jennies” and the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron “Hurricane Hunters.” These two aerial units combined have an inventory of 20 C-130J Super Hercules aircraft, 10 being WC-130Js.
Now, how about some math? A C-130J is equipped with four engines, and each engine sports a six-blade propeller. A fleet of twenty of these aircraft means there are 80 engines and 480 propeller blades that require year-round maintenance in order for the 815th AS and 53rd WRS to successfully complete their missions.
Naturally, this means the Airmen and civilians of the 403rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron “prop” shop have their hands full.
On any given Unit Training Assembly weekend, Airmen like Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Cox and Staff Sgt. Damon Lewis, aerospace propulsion technicians for the 403rd AMXS, can find themselves either in their prop (short for propeller) shop in Roberts Consolidated Maintenance Facility or across the flight line in the isochronal maintenance dock with a job guide detailing what needs to be done on the engine or engines at hand.
Despite it being called a prop shop, the crew of about 15 Reservists, the majority of those being traditional, and a handful of full-time civilian workers are responsible for the blades as well as the nearly one ton engines they are attached to, so their job guide can describe anything from preventative work like tune-ups to actual repairs of the engines and propellers to cosmetic work and cleanings.
Lewis said that a lot of times, because UTAs are short on time, traditional reservists are responsible for those less in-depth cosmetic and tune-up jobs, but completing more complex tasks and opportunities for more technically in-depth assignments are not uncommon.
Since the traditional reservists are only here once a month and two weeks out of the year, it is important they make valuable use of the small windows of opportunity in the “prop” shop, so they stay brushed up on the intricacies of maintaining C-130J engines by running through various scenarios in their downtime and using annual tour time to work more extensively with the engines in the ISO dock.
“I have been here so long that I have touched nearly every component of these engines,” said Lewis. “We are given job guides to go by that outline what needs to be done step-by-step, so if it has been a while since I have done a certain task I go by the guide and the knowledge comes back to me.”
Considering the amount of aircraft and the need for full-time maintenance, Air Reserve Technicians man the shop during the week, but Lewis said that he thinks the impact the traditional reservists make during their one weekend a month and annual tour is great and essential to the unit’s goal to be Reserve ready.
”I just did my Annual Tour, and I can see the impact of having those extra sets of hands to help here and with the ISO docks,” Cox said about the impact of Airmen coming in for their one weekend a month. “It helps us too because we get the extra training, so it is a win-win.”