190th maintenance processes recognized

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Kevin Drewelow
  • 190th Maintenance Group
A trophy commemorating the role of the Air National Guard and the 190th Air Refueling Wing in revolutionizing the KC-135 depot maintenance process made a stop at Forbes recently on its tour of all Air National Guard refueling wings. 

A team comprised of the Air National Guard, Defense Contracting Management Agency, the 827th Aircraft Sustainment Group at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center and the three KC-135 depot repair facilities received the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Excellence Award for their joint conception and implementation of Operation Team Spirit. 

Operation Team Spirit has increased aircraft availability while decreasing critical and major discrepancies found on KC-135s after completing depot level maintenance. It has turned a formerly adversarial relationship between the depots and flying units into a partnership, sharing Air Guard experience with depot workers who use the knowledge to improve the next airplane on the production line. 

In the past, Air Guard maintenance teams had to wait until the aircraft was released from depot before they were allowed to inspect it, and then they frequently found flight-critical defects. Correcting these discrepancies kept the aircraft out of service even longer. By 2000, the odds were greater than 50 percent that an aircraft returning from depot would have a grounding defect. 

In an attempt to reverse this trend, Air National Guard maintainers and representatives from the three KC-135 depots came up with a plan which has evolved into what is known today as Operation Team Spirit. Under this concept, a team of mechanics from the owning wing arrives at the depot to inspect their aircraft before it completes the inspection and repair process. The team is afforded complete access and inspects the aircraft with depot mechanics present to correct the defects. There is always a great exchange of information and knowledge between the depot and Air Guard mechanics that has led to measurable improvement in the quality of aircraft delivered since Operation Team Spirit began. Four years ago, a team of 190th mechanics conducted a test of the Operation Team Spirit concept on a Kansas KC-135E coming out of the depot in Birmingham, Alabama. The KC-135R that returned from the same depot two months ago had no critical or major defects. The Air Force has noticed the improvement and is adopting Operation Team Spirit for aircraft other than the KC-135. 

Twenty two teams competed for the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Excellence  Award and five received the award. All Kansas Coyotes can take pride in the role unit members played in bringing this Air Force Best Practice to life.