Military News

Friday, April 24, 2015

Always Ready

by Senior Airman Sean D. Smith
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

4/21/2015 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The 5th Bomb Wing's mission of nuclear deterrence is fundamentally built on readiness -- the capability to deploy assets quickly and effectively if the need arises. One means of measuring the wing's readiness is the on-time takeoff rate.

"In March, our on-time takeoff rate was 85 percent," said Capt. Michael Taddy, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron maintenance operations officer. "That's the kind of rate that we expect to see in the summer months. Common sense can tell you that this job is much harder when it's cold, so those numbers in winter are really strong."

Readiness is only achievable through the efforts of dozens of units, and effective synergy between those units is key to good exceptional performance.

"You hear stories about disagreements and people not talking to each other, but you don't have that here at Minot," said Maj. Thomas Witkowski, 23rd Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations. "People get each other what they need."

"This is one of the best working relationships that I've seen between maintenance and operations," Taddy said. "And it doesn't stop there. Flyers and maintainers, the Logistics Readiness Squadron, fuels - different units and squadrons, one team. People work together."

He also credits the wing's Flying Hour Program with helping to optimize operations.

"We changed our schedule a little bit," Taddy said. "Allowing us to get to the jets sooner and have them ready for the next sortie."

One key to great performance in winter is working around the environment, or if circumstances demand it, falling back on raw fortitude.

"There are times when we have to deal with the elements," said Master Sgt. Joel Hoeffner, 5th Munitions Squadron armament flight chief. "That can be challenging sometimes with older equipment, but our Airmen are dedicated, and they always persevere regardless."

"There are certain thresholds of cold that can affect our ability to do our job," Taddy said. "If you can't have your hands on the aircraft, you can't fix the aircraft. We've been able to overcome that. It takes a certain caliber of Airman to be out there in negative 32 degrees."

The theater of nuclear deterrence is an intrinsically high-stakes environment; the driving force that motivates the 5th is the gravity of the mission.

"Without the deterrent mission, the world would be a much more dangerous place," Witkowski said. "We're here to keep us or anyone else from having to employ these weapons. If the day does come, then nothing's more important than being prepared."

Recent months have shown that the wing's evolving strategy of readiness is working, measured by dropping attrition rates. Attrition is the result of unforeseen circumstances that can reduce the number of sorties flown.

"In February it was 5.1 percent attrition," Taddy said. "Historically it's around 17 percent. We're much more focused and efficient."

Witkowski believes mission performance comes from healthy and positive units.

"We have a really good set of commanders," he said. "And they're creating a tremendous environment. It feels like a good place to be."

Taddy credits the efforts of the men and women doing the job, regardless of the weather.

"Number one is always the people," he said. "That's always going to be number one."

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