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Airmen adjust schedule, adapt techniques to combat COVID-19

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The 33rd Fighter Wing’s maintainers implemented new work schedules and re-purposed previously learned procedures to respond to the recent COVID-19 crisis here. “Half of our squadron works one week and the other half works the following week,” said Tech. Sgt. Monica Sue Loss, a 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flightline expediter. “We are executing the same amount of sorties as we would during a normal flying schedule.”

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EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. — The 33rd Fighter Wing’s maintainers implemented new work schedules and re-purposed previously learned procedures to respond to the recent COVID-19 crisis here.

“Half of our squadron works one week and the other half works the following week,” said Tech. Sgt. Monica Sue Loss, a 33rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flightline expediter. “We are executing the same amount of sorties as we would during a normal flying schedule.”

Separating the squadron into halves and the use of persistent and deliberate sanitation methods helps reduce operational impact if a team member is exposed to the virus.

“We have been more diligent in regards to hand washing and sanitizing common surfaces and areas multiple people use,” said Maj. Josephine Beacham, 33rd AMXS commander.

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The use of hand signals, referred to as Comm-Out procedures, when launching and recovering aircraft adds another level of protection. Although the procedures are typically only used when communication channels are unavailable, maintainers recognize these procedures as part of their core training tasks.

“We as leaders are not able to be on the line every day, so it is ideal the idea to implement Comm-Out procedures came from the flightline all the way to my desk,” said Beacham. “We are trying to empower our Airmen to decide as a group to mitigate risks during difficult times where we are all adjusting to a new normal.”

The use of hand signals allows crew chiefs to communicate with pilots while eliminating the need for headgear and mouthpieces typically used during the aircraft launch and recovery process.

Beacham says the keys to maintaining operational readiness are to remain engaged and practice good leadership through constant communication.

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“This is the time to step up and take care of our Airmen,” said Beacham. “This isn’t something that myself, the chief or the first sergeant can do by ourselves. This is a time for us to empower each other… understand the intent of the wing commander, group commander and myself, and that they are carrying that out while also taking care of the Airmen.”

As the crisis evolves, preserving operational readiness of the combat air forces remains the 33rd FW’s mission.

“This is something we haven’t navigated before, so the Airmen trusting us is imperative,” said Beacham. “Readiness is always going to be critical, especially during this time when we are vulnerable as a nation.  There is still a mission and we have to maintain our operational capabilities.  It’s a reminder for Airmen to understand they’re valued and essential because there’s a larger reason why we are all doing this.”

Story by Airman 1st Class Amber Litteral, 33rd Fighter Wing

PHOTO (TOP):

Airmen assigned to the 33rd Fighter Wing prepare an F-35A Lightning II for launch at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, March 25, 2020. The 58th Fighter Squadron and 58th Aircraft Maintenance Unit continue to execute the training mission during reduced flying operations due to COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Amber Litteral)

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