Maintenance duo named best in 22 AF

  • Published
  • By Gene H. Hughes
  • 908th Airlift Wing
The 908th Maintenance Group has a long tradition of excellence, not only here at Maxwell, but throughout the airlift community, and that reputation isn't just hearsay. Within the past few years, the group's trophy case has swelled with accolade after accolade, both for unit and individual effort, from the wing, to 22nd Air Force and all the way to the "big" Air Force.

Recently, 908th MXG has added two more honors to that legacy.

For 2011, 22nd Air Force has named Master Sgt. Roy Hart as the Thomas Barnes' Outstanding Crew Chief of the Year, and Senior Airman Jake Yakes as the General Leo Marquez Outstanding Maintenance Technician of the Year.

"Both are phenomenal workers who willingly seek opportunities to improve the organization," said Chief Master Sgt. Leon Alexander, 908th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Superintendent.

While it might be rare for these honors to come from the same squadron, it's even rarer for both to work on the same aircraft. Hart and Yakes are responsible for making their plane inspection ready, delegating work and overseeing special jobs.

"It's pride in ownership," Hart said. "It's our plane. It's our baby. Yakes and I both try to do the best that we can, and we try to set a good example for the other crew chiefs. Besides, we don't just have any C-130 to take
care of. We have 35."

Tail No. 35 isn't just one of seven planes lining the Maxwell flightline. It's "The City of Montgomery," not only the very first C-130 Hercules model delivered to the 908th Airlift Wing, in 1986, but the first H2 model on the Air Force rolls.

"It's the first of its kind Air Force-wide," Hart said. "If you look at the references, it's the first H2 model on the list."

Hart, who came to the 908th in July of 2003, credits Master Sgt. Richard Taylor, crew chief of 37, for setting him on the right path and giving him his positive attitude. Together, he said, they set the standard for the squadron, and now, he added, it's he and Yakes' turn.

"He's passing on to me the same knowledge that Sergeant Taylor gave to him." Yakes said. "It's that pride of ownership and taking that extra step."

Alexander explained that on his own personal initiative, Hart contacted the Snap-On vendor to order new aircraft tool boxes and restructured the squadron's tool inventory tracking system.

"All the C-130 bases have always had difficulty managing their aircraft loose equipment and spare bulb/fuse storage," he said. "This resulted in numerous discrepancies on major inspections across our command due to accountability of these items. Hart designed an aircraft loose equipment storage area and an itemized spare parts container to eliminate these discrepancies.

Alexander added that when 22nd Air Force conducted their Staff Assistance Visit in March, they liked Hart's designs so much that they requested them and sent them out for other units to benchmark.

He is equally quick to praise Yakes' efforts, saying that he is "by far the most prolific Airman assigned to us. When he is not working on the aircraft, he is quick to ask if anything needs to be done or if somebody needs assistance."

"When the aircrews come on board, we get compliments because of the condition of our aircraft," said Hart, a former active-duty KC-135 crew chief who's deployed all over the states, Europe, South America and Southwest Asia. "People like our plane because we take care of it. We do that little extra bit to make sure everything's in place, that it's neat and well organized to the best of our ability."

The duo, like most every member of the 908th, thinks of the unit as a family, so the recent announcement concerning the retirement of older C-130s, including the "Magnificent Seven," hit very close to home.

"I was shocked," Yakes said. "I put a lot of work and sweat, blood and tears into this plane. It was like losing someone special. That might seem a little intense for some people, but I don't want 35 to go."

If the planned retirement takes effect, as scheduled, in Fiscal Year 2014, the 908th's maintainers will be among the hardest hit. While their active-duty counterparts can transfer to other duty stations, Reservists like Yakes, of Smith Station, Ala., and Hart, from Columbus, Ga., choose to serve close to their homes and families, and that includes the 908th Airlift Wing.

"It's one big family," said Yakes, who joined the 908th straight out of high school and has deployed to Central America, Southwest Asia and the Caribbean. "I love this squadron, I love this group and I love the 908th. This is home."

Both Airmen, as the rest of the 908th, remain positive and professional in the face of an uncertain future, and believe (with crossed fingers) that the wing will receive another aircraft and keep its flying mission intact.

"Until then, we'll keep working on the planes we have," Hart said. "We'll keep them flying, keep doing a good job, push forward and we'll see what happens."

So until the Air Force gives the order for Hart and Yakes to relinquish their responsibilities, "The City of Montgomery" is in very good hands.

"Whoever gets her, they'll be able to tell they're getting a plane that was taken good care of," Hart said. "I hope they appreciate all the work that was put into her."