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Battle repair for the air

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The 76th Aircraft Maintenance Group's Expeditionary Depot Maintenance Flight is there just in case of aircraft battle damage repair emergency.

When the 22 Airmen who make up the flight receive a call about a damaged aircraft, they're on top of it, thinking outside the box, ensuring that aircraft will make one more flight.

Together since the 654th Combat Logistics Support Squadron deactivated in July 2008, the flight performs battle or crash damage repair for B-52s, B-1s, KC-135s and E-3s.

"EDMX is a critical part of our 24/7 world-wide mission supporting Mission Design Series' aircraft," said Col. Doug Cato, 76th AMXG commander. "It takes a specialized team of highly-trained aircraft structures and crew chiefs to execute this mission. Our teams are about repairing combat aircraft that are beyond the technical capability of wing-level maintainers and putting those aircraft back in the fight as soon as possible."

Primarily made up of structural maintainers and crew chiefs, Airmen perform basic structural, electrical and tubing repair. The flight will also assist field crews with manning and time compliance technical orders.

"We do all the repairs that the field units can't do," said Master Sgt. Rickie Gress, lead production superintendent for the flight.

The flight typically spends approximately 500 hours a month on damaged aircraft. They learn of the aircraft status and get direction through a particular aircraft's system program office.

"It's a very rewarding job," said Tech. Sgt. Richard Lemay, exercise planner for the flight. "You get to do a lot of things that typical maintainers do not do."

Master Sgt. Marty Job, flight superintendent, who recently retired, agreed.

"No two jobs are the same," he said.

In the past year, the flight has replaced the main landing gear of a B-52 and a B-1 that landed without its landing gear. The flight also disposed of debris from a B-1 that crashed on a landing strip in Qatar.

The amount of damage will determine the flight's turnaround time.

Sergeant Gress said the B-52 landing gear change took 30 days, while the B-1 that "bellied in" took eight months.

"We're not on a regular rotation like most units are," said Tech. Sgt. Lonnie Wilson, training manager for the flight. "If we get called up, we go."

When Airmen aren't repairing damaged aircraft, they are training for wartime contingencies and increasing their qualifications so they can perform more heavy maintenance.

Airmen serving in the flight are on a three-year controlled tour and have been assigned by the group's commander.