KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
From aircraft arrivals and departures to conducting engine runs and towing aircraft, whatever it is, the Airmen of the 403rd Wing Maintenance Operations Center are monitoring just about everything that is happening on Keesler Air Force Base’s flight line.
Master Sgt. Daniel Straka, 403rd Maintenance Group senior MOC controller, is one of eight Airmen who work behind the scenes to coordinate and track activities dealing with aircraft or its equipment to enhance the maintenance mission’s effectiveness.
Straka and his crew record the mission capabilities of the 10 C-130J and 10 WC-130 J Super Hercules aircraft assigned to the 403rd Wing, which helps analysts determine aircraft maintenance requirements. They are similar to the command post, but their area of responsibility is the flight line, and they provide maintainers access to an array of information.
“There is always something going on,” said Straka, who joined the unit in 2007 after a six-year tour on active duty as a crew chief maintaining F-16s. He worked in the Isochronal Inspection Dock for seven years before transitioning to the MOC. At Keesler, a prerequisite to work in the MOC is experience as a crew chief, which Straka said is essential as one has to understand the aircraft and maintenance operations.
“The biggest part of the job is tracking the aircraft statuses and classifying an aircraft as ready, which provides leadership with information that helps with planning future missions,” he said.
To oversee all of this, MOC personnel arrive to work at 6 a.m. to open the flight line, and they are the last to leave.
“We put in a lot of 12 hours days,” he said. “We coordinate all of it.”
They monitor Keesler’s aircraft on and off station. The MOC controllers will accompany aircrews for storm deployments with the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron and on deployments with the 815th Airlift Squadron.
Wherever maintenance operates, each day, there is a list of jobs maintainers are required to complete on various aircraft.
“We track if that is completed on time and if it’s not done on time, we report which jobs didn’t get done to the commander with the reason why,” said Tech. Sgt. Alan Dell, MOC controller. “Anything that can effect production on the flightline has to be reported.”
“When plans and scheduling provides a schedule from operations and maintenance, we take it and track and monitor the schedule as they produce it,” said Straka. “We monitor and coordinate sortie production and track the monthly flying hours to include when they fly, who flies and how many hours they fly every day, as well as takeoff time and land time. If an aircraft takes off late it’s considered a deviation, which is reported to Air Force Reserve Command, who views all of our data to get a picture of the health of our fleet.”
Maintainers document jobs in GO-81, a maintenance database that tracks their work and aircraft statuses, said Dell, adding that this provides leadership with a snap shot view of how effectively the group is doing their jobs and highlights trends in maintenance.
The MOC is also a “middleman” for coordinating activities between maintenance and operations as well as for the flight line and back shop areas, said Straka.
“If they (a maintainer) needs fuel on the flight line they will call us on the radio, and we will coordinate that for them,” said Straka. “If there is an engine start or anything that happens with the planes, it’s controlled by us. If they need to tow an aircraft, they call us for coordination, we will notify the air traffic control tower and security forces.”
The MOC also works closely with the command post, especially during emergency type situations. They run emergency checklists and coordinate with base agencies and first responders for anything that can happen on the flight line, such as a personal injury, aircraft damage, lightning strikes and other weather events.
Whatever the day might bring, Straka said he enjoys the job, because there is never a dull moment, and every day is unique.