By Ben Sherman, Fort SillDecember 6, 2012
FORT SILL, Okla. (Dec. 6, 2012) -- The Army had a unique opportunity to assist another military branch as the 168th Brigade Support Battalion helped replace an engine on an Air Force C-130J Nov. 29 at Fort Sill's Henry Post Army Air Field.
The Soldiers from 168th BSB appreciated the opportunity to work with the Air Force.
"The Air Force always transports the Army when we have to go long distances, so it's good for us to have an opportunity to give back," said Sgt. Dylan Ross, B Battery, 168th BSB, Service and Recovery Section noncommissioned officer in charge. "It's a good thing when different branches can connect and help each other out and that you've got that support when you need it."
The opportunity for the Army to support the Air Force came when the C-130J from the 41st Airlift Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., experienced a No. 2 engine pitch control problem while practicing touch-and-go landings at Fort Sill. A maintenance crew was flown in from their home base to make repairs, but that didn't fix the problem.
"It turned out to be a little more than we thought. We decided the best course of action was to change out the engine and the propeller so we could get the plane back home," said Tech Sgt. Paul Evans, 41st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. "Originally, we changed the pitch control unit that we brought with us, but it still wasn't fixed."
Evans and his crew, Senior Airman Madison Leonard and Staff Sgts. Evan Morter and Michael Mirabella, worked with the 168th BSB Soldiers to completely swap out the engine and propeller.
"It's a basic lift operation using our M984A2 HEMTT recovery vehicle to lift the engine so they can swap it out on this C-130," said Spc. Daniel Villalva, B/168th BSB Service and Recovery Section. "It was great working with professionals from the Air Force, and it went real smooth."
Villalva used a remote control unit to operate the crane on the HEMTT vehicle so he could stand back out of the way, but still take hand signals from the maintenance crew while lifting the engine. With the Rolls-Royce AE2100 turboprop engine weighing a ton, Villalva made sure he took the operation nice and slow.
"It's not every day you get to change an engine on a C-130 and work with a different branch of service, especially here at Fort Sill. It was fun to break away from the day-to-day tasks and get to do something unique and special," he said.
"The 168th Service and Recovery Section usually deals with metal cutting, metal welding, lift operations and any kind of vehicle recovery operations. So working with aircraft is new for us and a great learning experience," Ross added.
"The typical turn-around for replacing an engine is around 10 hours, from start to finish. That included removing the old one, installing the new one and running it so we know everything is right. And, the cost of this engine is $5.5 million. This C-130 is an important asset and the Air Force wants us to bring it back home," Evans said.
After 12 years in the Air Force and two deployments to Afghanistan, Evans is an old hand at the aircraft maintenance game. So solving the logistical problems of the limited equipment and resources at Fort Sill's air field was nothing new to him.
"We're doing the same thing here we were doing over at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. It's just a little safer here at Fort Sill," Evans chuckled. He went on to say even though Altus Air Force Base was only 55 miles away, their options for getting the Herk repaired were limited. "We could have gotten help from Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, Texas, because they have the C-130 airframes there, but our base in Little Rock is only an hour and a half away by air so they were able to fly us in. We will get this running and checked out to fly home tomorrow," he said.
According to Wayne Guffy, Henry Post Field operations director, it isn't unusual for aircraft like the C-130 to land at Fort Sill. But, since there isn't a permanent aviation mission here, maintenance becomes a more difficult issue.
"Unfortunately we are limited in what services we can provide to aircraft that land here. We would love to have an aviation mission stationed here like we did in the past," Guffy said. "But even with those limitations, I think this is a great example of cooperation between the Army and the Air Force. The Air Force is usually taking our Soldiers where they need to go, especially into combat, and so this is a chance for the Army to return the favor."
"The Soldiers here at Fort Sill were great. We couldn't have done it without them providing their HEMTT crane, because we would have had to truck in a forklift from Little Rock otherwise. They went above and beyond the call, and we definitely appreciate it," Evans added.