By Ms. Kristen Marquez (IMCOM)April 16, 2009
MANNHEIM, Germany -- Mannheim's Coleman Barracks is the site of some important work that directly helps Soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Without the work of hundreds of maintenance workers there, many of the Army's aircraft would not be ready for use after long deployments.
The Theater Aviation Sustainment Manager-Europe is handling the helicopter reset program, essentially taking aircraft that have redeployed from theater, finding any mechanical or structural problems, fixing them, and getting them back to their units.
"We do light, medium and heavy maintenance," said Lt. Col. Tildon "Kye" Allen, TASM-E commander. "The reset program in particular runs the gamut. They do everything from servicing wiper blades to doing limited depot repairs, sheet metal, structural repairs, blade repairs (and) engine repairs. That reset encompasses all those levels of repair."
UH-60 Black Hawks should have a reset performed every 350 hours, while CH-47 Chinooks should have a reset performed every 200 hours, Allen explained. The standard time for the reset program overall is 270 days, or nine months - for the current reset, the team has this time to complete the work on 59 helicopters.
"However, each aircraft has a different turn around time," Allen said. "UH-60A has a (turn around time) of 83 days. That's the target or the goal. For UH-60L it's 80 days, for CH-47, it's 113 days."
Once the aircraft go through the maintenance operations checks, Allen explained, it will then go through a maintenance test flight. Then, when it successfully completes the maintenance test flight, the aircraft's unit will take its turn checking things out. "Essentially the process starts all over - they'll do a pre-flight (check) ... They'll go over the aircraft and make sure it's acceptable to them."
The operation at Coleman Barracks is handled almost entirely by contractors from Dyncorp International - currently approximately 320 - along with local national employees, according to Randall Strand, Dyncorp operations manager. Strand, a seven-year Army veteran, has been here for two years.
Probably 98 percent of the employees in the hangar are prior service, according to Strand, who said his company looks for prior service when hiring new employees since they know the Army language and the aircraft.
"Basically what you're doing is you're resetting the aircraft to a standard that the Army understands," he said of the reset process. "You're taking it back to something they can use. After sitting in the desert for one, two or three years, they deteriorate from the heat ... We fix that and give the military something back to use in fighting the war - that's why this is important.
"It's basically to keep the Soldier in an aircraft that is safe, keep a quality product underneath him or her that they feel comfortable with, and they can go off and fight a war. So we fight the war effort from behind the lines."
David Mussack is a Dyncorp mechanic who moved to Mannheim in October to work on the reset program.
"(The reset program) provides a quality product to put Soldiers on the ground and get the wounded out - that's how I look at it," he said. "I really enjoy that part of it. I am a 20-year veteran, and I try to look out for the next guy."
The reset program is a huge undertaking and a big logistical effort, Allen said. Besides the giant hangars filled with aircraft, there are several "back shops" including shops for sheet metal work, engine repair and avionics.
"It's important to the Army because it keeps our machines in a posture to deploy when they are needed," he said. "Otherwise it would grow into states of disrepair ...We are flying them longer, harder, and in austere conditions, and that requires a deeper maintenance."
All the aircraft currently undergoing the reset belong to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade, which redeployed in the fall, Allen said.
"We're just having a really great time," Strand said. "It's difficult at times, but we get the job done."
(Editor's Note: Kristen Marquez works in the USAG Baden-Wuerttemberg Public Affairs Office)