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Story and photos by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen 177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Senior Airman Nate Harris, positions his MJ-1 lift truck as a F-16 Fighting Falcon passes behind him at "Base X".

Personnel Superintendent Chief Master Sgt. George P. Gulya stares across the Personnel Deployment Function area, and focuses on the digital clock - large enough that it can be seen anywhere in the open hangar - counting down the time the group of departing Airmen must clear the area.

The ability of the 177th Fighter Wing Personnel team to process them through the deployment line and on the bus will determine whether the Wing passes the Operational Readiness Inspection. Judging by the expression on Gulya's face, he will personally stuff each of those Airmen on the bus to make that time.

The 3 P's – Planning, Preparing and Practicing

The Air Combat Command inspectors will examine a variety of areas including the deploying personnel and their paperwork, the PDF, logistics, and aircraft generation and regeneration.

The last time the Wing has gone through a Phase I Inspection was in 1996; it is September 2010 - the ORI is scheduled for April 2011.

A major part of the inspection involves delivering to the inspectors "perfect" aircraft – something that is difficult to achieve in the real world. What is testing the crewchiefs and the maintainers' patience is that the Wing has just swapped out their old aircraft for 18 "pre-loved", aircraft. And while these aircraft have more flying hours left on them, they also need a lot of wrench turning and sweat to get them to that "perfect" status.

As the rest of the base goes home at the end of the day, they pass the second maintenance shift coming in. Maintenance is not feeling a lot of love right now.

The date of the ORI creeps closer.


Chief Master Sgt. George P. Gulya addresses a group of Airmen during the ORI.

March drill is here and the PDF is finally functioning the way it is supposed to – Airmen are moving through the deployment line and while it is working, they still can't beat the clock.

Maintenance has achieved great things; the aircraft are in the best shape since they rolled off the assembly line. The double shifts have paid off and maintenance feels the love.


Saturday, April 16, dawns with clouds and rain by noon. Maintenance, logistics and security will not be spared from the weather. By 2 o'clock it is raining.

On the flightline, maintainers, crew chiefs and weapons loaders are preparing the aircraft for the inspectors. Despite the rain, everyone remains focused; no one wants to do this again.

In the PDF, the chalk of deploying Airmen moves in. The group is a mix of maintainers, crew chiefs, weapons loaders and security forces troops. Each one gets wanded like they are going through an airport checkpoint.

Weapons Loader Staff Sgt. Sheila Velez-Avila installs a Chaff Module used to counter act radar guided missiles.

Once the group is finished getting wanded, Gulya steps in front of the microphone and in a rehearsed speech, tells them what to expect as they go through the line.

After the Airmen are processed, Himley steps in front of them and announces that they are leaving. As they head out to the buses, Himley turns around and watches; everything is going smoothly. More importantly, everything is on time.

Gulya watches as the last Airman leaves the hangar. He finally cracks a smile.

Sunday, April 17, at Base X, the "deployed" maintainers, crew chiefs and weapons loaders check out tools, fuel their MJ-1 lift trucks, or "jammers" the vehicles used to load weapons on F-16s and prepare for the arrival of the aircraft.

The F-16s arrive and taxi past the crews and pull into their parking spots. Each location has a white square with the Jersey Devil logo in black spray-painted on the tarmac marking the stopping point for the aircraft.

F-16 pilot Lt. Col. Neal A. Snetsky taxis past and flashes the devil horn symbols. All the aircraft have arrived.

The results

Lt. Col. Neal A. Snetsky flashes the Devil sign after landing his F-16 Fighting Falcon at "Base X".

Everyone files in the main hangar; all evidence that the PDF was there is gone. The Wing is joined by the New Jersey Air National Guard leadership. So much hinges on this inspection and solidarity is shown from the top down.

The IG grades the inspection Outstanding, Excellent, Satisfactory, Marginal or Unsatisfactory. Satisfactory is passing but it is also like getting a C.

The ACC inspector begins by making a joke.

"You got a Sat."

The joke falls flat; crickets chirp.

He recovers and says the Wing got an Excellent. He then breaks the inspection down hitting the highlights.

The list of sections receiving an Outstanding rating is long as is the list of individual superior performers - a record 45. Several of the wing's sections are cited as the best seen in the Air Force.

Overall, an incredible team effort says the Inspector.


Airmen of the 177th Fighter Wing participated in Red Flag Alaska 11-2, an air combat training exercise sponsored by the United States Pacific Air Forces and held at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska July 7-22. The exercise was part of the wing's training prior to deploying to Afghanistan this year. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matt Hecht, 177th Fighter Wing Public Affairs.

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Volume 35 Number 3 Staff / Information
(c) 2011 NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs