By By Air Force Airman 1st Class Mikaley Towle
99th Air Base Wing
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev., April 24, 2015 – Air Force Tech. Sgt. Dennis Hertlein is an avionics, electro-environmental and propulsions systems expert. But he’s not your average specialist flight expediter -- his expertise has saved the Air Force $5 million.
Hertlein, assigned to the 57th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, worked with teams to complete modifications and upgrades to Nellis Air Force Base’s F-16 fleet locally, rather than having to send them to a depot. The idea decreases costs and increases aircraft availability.
Specifically, he helped upgrade five F-16s with an advanced electronic countermeasure system. Hertlein also aided in developing the Tulsa [Oklahoma] Air National Guard [Base’s] identification friend-or-foe system upgrades and helped identify an engineering error during electronic warfare management system modifications on 22 Ohio Air National Guard F-16s.
“I went TDY out to Toledo, Ohio, to see how the Ohio Air National Guard performed their upgrades and use the lessons learned for out upgrades here,” Hertlein explained. “The Tulsa ANG came here TDY to assist us with our upgrades. We worked with their personnel to ensure that our modifications went smoothly.”
Attention to Detail
After the upgrade, there are still three separate systems -- threat warning, jamming and electronic countermeasures -- but now have one centralized control. Hertlein said threat detection was increased by 80 percent, due to the easier user interface of the centralized control.
“We worked hand-in-hand with engineers from Hill Air Force Base [Utah] while modifying the jets,” Hertlein said. “While going over wiring schematics, we noticed that two wires were going to interfere with an upcoming upgrade, and it needed to get sorted out.”
Hertlein’s attention to detail prevented future system failures stemming from the interference caused by the wires.
Hertlein insists he was just doing his job.
“The upgrades come in a packet that tells us what to do,” he said. “The engineers will do it on one jet, [and] then they give us instructions on how to do it. A lot of it is just learned over time through experience and working with it constantly.”
Hertlein’s former supervisor, Air Force Master Sgt. Maximilliano Heredia, said he was impressed by Hertlein’s meticulous work ethic.
“He didn’t need too much encouragement,” Heredia said of Hertlein. “You have to know your people’s strengths and weaknesses. I knew he would be perfect for the job. The entire documentation of the modification was error-free, from aircraft forms to the maintenance databases.
“He’s a hard-driven NCO who drives his airmen as hard as he drives himself to get the mission done,” Heredia continued. “His attention to detail and technical expertise is what sets him apart from his peers.”
Heredia also said he encourages airmen with potentially great ideas to not be afraid to come forward with them and to chase their ideas down, just as Hertlein has done.