173rd Fighter Wing uses non-drill weekends to focus exclusively on maintenance

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 173FW/PA
Klamath Falls, Ore., is home to a busy fighter trainer unit which routinely logs more flying hours than any other in the Air National Guard. With an average of 300 days of sun per calendar year and 32 aircraft assigned, you can hear F-15s thunder past traveling to and from the training ranges almost daily. That robust operations tempo requires intense and focused efforts from organizations across the 173rd Fighter Wing, and the one that feels it first is the 173rd Maintenance Group.

Because the flying schedule is so full, maintainers rarely work jets when they aren't simultaneously preparing to fly, but if it were possible they say it would be an incredible opportunity to improve the overall fleet, have fewer aircraft grounded, and remove some of the urgency to fix jets when problems crop up right before take-off.
As it turns out there are a few days a year when jets don't fly--non-drill weekends. The maintenance group has decided to take advantage of a few of these weekends.
"The split UTA (SUTA) provides an opportunity for our maintainers to work on aircraft and equipment during a non-fly period, which allows for a more focused maintenance effort," says Col. Jeff Smith, the 173rd Maintenance Group Commander.

The way the maintenance group plans to structure these weekends is primarily through volunteers who will work that weekend as opposed to the standard UTA.  Members are not required to work both but are required to attend a regular UTA every three months.

Although the main benefit is to the health of the fleet there is an added benefit of reducing the overcrowding that is typical of a drill weekend.

"The SUTA relieves pressure in some of the smaller work centers that don't have sufficient chairs, desks, computers, et cetera, for all of our full-time members, the Detachment 2 members, and the drill status guardsmen at the same time," says Smith.

Provided there are enough volunteers, SUTAs are scheduled August through the end of the year.

Smith also notes that participation in these SUTAs means that most base organizations are closed. Volunteers won't have support from places like force support flight or finance, in addition the dining facility will not be open, but guard members who qualify will receive meal chits for local restaurants.