Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea --
Dozens of machinery align in multiple rows near a hangar. Some are as big as the Hydraulic Test Stand, sitting up to nearly five feet tall. Some are as small as an axle jack, which can fit on a table, but lift a 30,000-pound aircraft.
Mission-ready Airmen and their equipment are ready 24/7, supplying aircraft with air pressure, electrical power and much more.
This maintenance space is home to the 8th Maintenance Squadron Aerospace Ground Equipment flight and nearly 550 pieces of equipment. The Airmen’s legacy being readily available runs deep into history.
“AGE troops were called AGE Rangers because of our time in Vietnam,” said Senior Master Sgt. Griselda Criddell, 8th MXS AGE flight superintendent. “Not because we held perimeter defense, but for basic survival as AGE Rangers would get shot at trying to service equipment and support aircraft out on the line.
“The story goes that when the AGE troops would pull up to service the equipment, a wingman would jump out to hitch while the other covered him with his rifle,” Criddell said. “The security police, upon either seeing this or seeing the AGE guys on their way for servicing, would note the weapons they held and were rumored to have said, ‘There go the AGE Rangers!’ sort of as a joke, but there began Danger Is No Stranger To An AGE Ranger. DINSTAAR!”
To keep the tradition alive, the AGE flight splits into five smaller groups, maximizing their efforts to keep the jets launching from the runway.
“There’s no air power without ground power,” said Staff Sgt. Brian French, AGE journeyman. “For us in the Service Pickup and Delivery section, we deliver the equipment to get the aircraft in the air, while the inspections section actually makes sure the equipment comes in on a monthly basis.”
According to French, the War Ready Material section maintains WRM equipment that is utilized in case of a real-world situation. Regardless of war- or peacetime, the Airmen oftentimes switch sections, expanding their maintenance knowledge, while gaining a better understanding on the overall AGE mission.
“I’m currently in the maintenance section – troubleshooting and putting parts together to make sure the equipment works,” said Senior Airman Andrew Schaefer, 8th MXS AGE journeyman. “I was in inspections, checking fluids and doing things like making sure that the grease seals are good on the equipment. I think switching between sections gives a lot of perspective while giving a change up to what you’re doing and gives you a broader scale of what you can accomplish.”
Lastly, with an overarching mission, the support section Airmen maintain numerous safety-related programs, such as facility manager and Hazard Communication. This section not only has AGE Airmen, but logistics readiness troops, leading them to be the mastermind behind inventory. They keep track of all tools and pieces of equipment the rest of the AGE flight requires to execute their mission – acting as the backbone of the entire flight.
According to Criddell, the flight’s latest success was sustaining 90 percent averages with equipment in-commission rates and quality assurance rates with 60 percent low-manning levels amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The small, but mighty flight strives to stay highly effective to the Air Force mission while keeping their legacy alive.
“In AGE, we do it all,” said Senior Airman David Hendricks, 8th MXS AGE journeyman. “We do hydraulics. We do inspections. We also do pneumatics, electrical, and diesel engines. We’re the jacks-of-all-trades, masters of it all.”