The Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards are given annually to recognize the most significant weapons systems and equipment maintenance achievements by field-level and depot-level organizations within the DoD.
"Out of all the maintenance squadrons in all of the services, we were picked as one of the best," said Lt. Col. Matt Sanford, 31st AMXS commander. "If you bring your very best to work every day, these kinds of things will happen naturally."
In February, the 31st AMXS clinched the 2007 Air Force Maintenance Effectiveness Award. The Air Force MEA is the highest-level of squadron recognition in the Air Force aircraft maintenance world. The winner of this award is then submitted to compete for the DoD Maintenance Awards.
Colonel Sanford and seven other Airmen from Aviano attended the Secretary of Defense Maintenance Awards Banquet and Ceremony Oct. 27 in Denver, Colo. For Airman 1st Class Justin Mahr, 31st AMXS, it was an eye-opening experience.
"I was thrilled to be chosen to go on this TDY," said Airman Mahr. "To represent our AMU as an Airman was an honor."
"This squadron works really well with each other," he said. "We back each other up and get the job done. Our upper leadership is the best and help keep this squadron together."
That camaraderie contributed to the 31st AMXS enabling the wing to fly 8,293 sorties for more than 16,366 flying hours, while maintaining an 84.5 percent mission capable rate and achieving a 93 percent flying scheduling effectiveness rate.
The teamwork that brought the 31st AMXS to this point was evident in the number of successful missions completed while undergoing a major re-organization, absorbing manning cuts and numerous Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century implementations. With back-to-back deployments, the 31st AMXS seamlessly mobilized people, equipment and aircraft from Aviano to span the globe in support of two Air Expeditionary Force deployments, one to Pacific Air Forces, marking the first time in AEF history that United States Air Forces in Europe aircraft deployed to support Pacific Command.
"Last year was like the perfect storm ... a whole lot of mission, an inordinate amount of hard work, and ample opportunity to excel," said Colonel Sanford. "The fact is in 2007, half this squadron was deployed for nine months."
From January to May, 12 F-16s deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq. In May another 18 aircraft flew to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, for Red Flag Alaska, an air combat training exercise, and from there they flew to Kunsan Air Base, Korea.
During this same time period, squadron members at Aviano, despite several challenges, successfully prepared for a key evaluation and underwent a unique reorganization as the 31st AMXS began implementing Air Force Smart Operations 21 improvements.
"Split operations and reduced manpower were significant obstacles this past year," said Colonel Sanford." Anytime you divide your resources you're not going to be as effective. With half the squadron deployed most of last year, sustaining home station flying operations was a challenge both from a manning and support equipment perspective. Further, manpower cuts began to hit us during fiscal year 2007 which had us down approximately 70 people."
Despite the split force and reduced manning, the squadron managed to keep the home station mission going strong.
"Generating airpower is a choreographed performance between operations and maintainers ... working together on a daily basis to ensure combat readiness," said Colonel Sanford. "This award would not have been possible were it not for the fantastic relationship we share with both the 510th and 555th Fighter Squadrons. This award is clearly a testament to that teamwork."
11/14/2008 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy
by Senior Airman Justin Weaver (Staff Sgt. Sarah Gregory contributed to this article)
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs