By Air Force Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing
SOUTHWEST ASIA -- With more than 1,000 successful missions in the last six months, the 5th Expeditionary Air Mobility Squadron, known as ‘The Jokers,’ supports Operation Inherent Resolve’s busiest aerial port here.
As a tenant unit under the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, the 5th EAMS maintains C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, in addition to providing support for aircraft flying in and out of Iraq, Afghanistan and Southwest Asia.
Beyond their mission at the 386th, the ‘Jokers’ also perform maintenance on aircraft at forward-deployed locations.
“Without maintainers, these aircraft would eventually just sit on the runway,” said Air Force Senior Airman Eric Pashnick, a 5th EAMS crew chief deployed here from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. “It is humbling to know that with our support, we are able to accomplish the mission. However, at the same time, it keeps you focused and ensures you pay attention to even the littlest detail -- because one mistake can be catastrophic.”
The attention to detail Pashnick mentioned is critical, as aircraft in the region are often subject to foreign object damage, or FOD. According to Pashnick, it is common for aircraft to arrive here with rocks, sand, animals, or combat damage. The maintainers repair or replace parts affected by the FOD, in addition to performing routine maintenance procedures.
“We are there working the moment the aircraft comes to a full stop,” said Air Force Senior Airman Clayton Cahoon, a 5th EAMS crew chief deployed here from Travis Air Force Base, California. “Time is of the essence, and the longer an aircraft is parked on our runway, the less it is in the air completing its mission. It’s our job to ensure it doesn’t sit on the runway for long.”
When an aircraft arrives the maintainers do a full inspection on it -- from the engines all the way down to the fluids, Cahoon said.
The airmen recently repaired jet engines on a C-17 by removing and replacing turbine blades, he said.
“What makes the airmen of the 5th EAMS the best is their passion for the mission, teamwork and pride in what they accomplish,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Clinton Varty, 5th EAMS commander.
Varty said his airmen’s achievements are the product of their hard work.
“Beyond the airmen of the 5th EAMS, the reason we are successful is due to amazing support we receive from the 386th AEW and the 387th Air Expeditionary Group,” he added. “This is a great place to make the mission happen -- and we all have a part in that.”