Friday, February 14, 2014

Behind the scenes with Transient Alert

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
JBER Public Affairs

2/14/2014 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARSON, Alaska -- Thick fog settled over Eielson Air Force Base, completely covering the flight line and hindering F-16 Fighting Falcons from landing, diverting the fighters to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

JBER Base Operations learned of the incoming aircraft and notified Novell Howard, 3rd Maintenance Squadron Transient Alert project manager, who went to work.

Novell Howard coordinated with his team and - based on the requests of the incoming transient flights - was prepared for anything from helping the pilots get a room for the night to having members of his team perform maintenance on the fighter jets.

This situation has happened before and will inevitably happen again. The mission of transient alert is to meet needs like these and more.

"Transient alert cares for any aircraft that is visiting JBER, not assigned or deployed here, from any branch of service," Novell Howard said. "Basically, if it's coming here to gas-and-go so it can continue to another destination, it belongs to us."

In cases such as fighter jets getting diverted, Transient Alert will perform the required services themselves, he said, though it's much more common for his team to coordinate the services of other units based on the needs of the incoming flights.

"We'll get notification from Base Operations saying that an aircraft is coming in today," the transient alert project manager from Los Angeles said. "I can also track week-by-week air traffic on the web to get a breakdown of what's coming in. Once I get that notification, I can schedule my people."

If it's just passing through and no maintenance is requested, Novell Howard's team will guide the aircraft to a parking spot after it lands, and talk to the crew about their needs.
On distinguished visitor aircraft, transient alert coordinates fuel, protocol and other units to ensure those options are available if needed.

"Transient alert supports the forward movement of missions to and from JBER throughout the globe," said Tech. Sgt. Joshua Hittie, 3rd Maintenance Squadron Transient Alert NCO in charge. "They get roughly 1,600 aircraft a year and complete around 2,500 actions, whether leading aircraft to assigned spots, maintenance, servicing, towing, de-icing, or assisting with departures or anything else that's needed. They coordinate it."

Novell Howard's team is made up of civilian contractors answering to Hittie. Many of them are retired military with experience working with a variety of aircraft. His team includes experts on heavy aircraft such as C-5 Galaxies and C-130 Hercules, as well as experts on various fighter aircraft.

"It's great," said Gary Howard, 3rd MXS Transient Alert aircraft servicer and a native of Summersburg, N.H. "I love this job, I've been doing it for 17 years now and it's one of the best jobs I've ever had."

Novell Howard said transient alert takes care of VIP aircraft.

"We also take care of any distinguished visitor that comes through, all the way up to Air Force One," he said. "The only time we would actually go from start to finish on an aircraft is a fighter aircraft. Every now and then a fighter jet comes through, like an F-16 Fighting Falcon from Eielson Air Force Base, they'll come for a change of command or an air show, and if the air field gets snowed in or fogged in, which has happened before, they divert to us. We'll take care of those ourselves. I was in the Air Force for 24 years. I was an expeditor, I was a crew chief, I've actually done transient alert before, for two and a half years.

Gary Howard said the job often involves taking care of little details.

"Today we have a DV aircraft that just arrived," he said. "We're helping refuel the aircraft and make sure they have all their needs taken care of such as ice water. We'll do a quick debrief, see what the needs are for tomorrow morning and what time they'll depart. I'm the aircraft marshaller; I make sure they follow my signals and I get them to the spot they need to be."

"Our mission is to take care of all transient aircraft, anything that comes through," said Clarence Everingham, 3rd Maintenance Squadron Transient Alert assistant project manager and a native of Wasilla, Alaska. "We coordinate and provide assistance with any service needed on transient aircraft. Our main focus is the aircraft. We support the air show when all those airplanes come through. We also take care of DVs.

"I served in the Air Force for 25 years. I was an engine guy. I'm sure I had a lot more responsibility then; here, I just work. I enjoy being here doing things that I know. Hopefully the talents I have help make this mission work."

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