EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska –
The Alaska Air National Guard’s 168th Maintenance Group won the Maintenance Effectiveness Award for 2020 in the small aircraft maintenance unit category, recognizing it as one of the Air Force’s top maintenance units.
The Maintenance Effectiveness Award is presented annually to the unit that has most successfully managed maintenance resources to provide safe and serviceable equipment for sustained use in peacetime and wartime. The award has four categories – small-aircraft maintenance, medium-aircraft maintenance, missile/munitions maintenance, and Depot.
“I am beyond humbled to be working with the men and women of the 168th Maintenance Group,” said Col. Jennifer Casillo, 168th MXG Commander. “This group of maintainers has incredible pride in their work, these aircraft, and the wing’s mission. All the accomplishments that won this award are a byproduct of that pride. Honestly, I spend most of my time just trying to stay out of their way.”
According to the award package, the 168th MXG maintainers were able to complete their objectives, even in austere conditions, and despite the effects of last year’s COVID-19 pandemic.
“Maintainers comprise a proud group, and rightfully so,” said Capt. Mark Dellaquila, maintenance officer, 168th MXG. “It takes a special breed of person to show up day after day after getting doused in hydraulic oil, a wind-burnt face, hands frozen to a tow bar, or permeated with a jet fuel smell that just doesn’t come out of your hair. But the 168th Maintenance is full of people like that. People who show up and make this Wing’s refueling mission happen day in and day out.”
Over the period covered by the award, some of the accomplishments of the 168th MXG included performing their duties for a 45-day period where the temperatures were minus 30 degrees or colder; providing 35,426 maintenance hours to their fleet and an additional 1,582 man-hours directly supporting U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, The United States Transportation Command, and U.S. Northern Command; and performing 3,500 maintenance actions while keeping their Airmen, families, and community safe during COVID.
Additionally, they accepted 111 maintenance repair requests from transient aircraft and conducted 1,582 maintenance man-hours repairing tankers from all over the globe. Most notably, an Arizona tanker landed at Eielson AFB with significant lightning strike damage to include structural and avionics damage.
One of the primary missions of the 168th Wing is to provide KC-135 aircraft ready to go year-round at a moment’s notice to supports NORAD’s air sovereignty mission by ensuring KC-135 tankers are ready at all times to provide aerial refueling to F-22 Raptors and E-3 AWACS scrambled from Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage to intercept and monitor unknown aircraft and U.S. airspace.
168th Maintenance Group operates in support of state, federal, and overseas operations. The Maintenance Airmen keep the fleet of KC-135s readily providing air refueling throughout the pacific and arctic regions, including U.S. and allied aircraft, our Alaska NORAD region partners.
Dellaquilla noted that the maintainers’ accomplishments are further noteworthy due to the aging fleet of 168th Wing KC-135 Stratotankers and the level of maintenance required to keep them mission ready.
“Our oldest jet was produced in 1959, and our newest jet was manufactured in 1963,” he said.
Although the award was due to the accomplishments of the 168th MXG, Dellaquilla said that it was a team effort and that many other units within the 168th Wing made their success possible for their contributions.
“We couldn’t perform at this level without the skills and support of each and every unit in this wing,” said Dellaquila. “I’d like to call special attention to our closest partners across the street in the Logistics and Readiness Squadron, the Communications Flight, and the Civil Engineer Squadron. We rely heavily on each of these units to the point that someone from each of them can be found in our buildings every day, whether it be delivering parts, keeping our network operational, or making sure our buildings stay warm. I’d also like to thank the Operations Group for keeping us in business.”