Vermont Air National Guard
By Tech. Sgt. Garth Dunkel
Shortly after the turn of the New Year, leadership of the 158th Maintenance Group at the Vermont Air National Guard, were contacted by their Colorado Air National Guard counterparts. This correspondence described a circumstance that led to a handful of Green Mountain Boys spending several weeks in the Rockies. As conveyed, the Colorado Phase Dock element of the Maintenance Group reached out to like-units for support in preparing large scale aircraft.
As the teams in Vermont transition from the F-16 Fighting Falcon mission to the F-35 Lightning II this fall, there was skilled airmen who were pleased to volunteer.
After a predetermined number of flight hours, each F-16 will be removed from flying status and scheduled for “Phase.” During the deliberate process of a Phase, the aircraft is essentially taken apart, inspected, repaired as necessary and put back together. Each asset and team of the Maintenance Group contributes to the Phase process; their level of involvement will be determined by the dedicated Phase crew chiefs and the discrepancies found during the process.
“Well, we were only one of six other units that have Block-30 F-16’s. Colorado reached out to all of them; but I’m pretty sure they got every single name of every person in our shop back within a couple of days; so we all just volunteered as soon as they reached out to us,” said Tech. Sgt. John Mullen.
Eager to lend a hand, 158th Maintenance Group leadership notified their airmen to determine if a team could be organized to deliver support. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Motivated by challenge and opportunity, Master Sgt. Andrew Maxfield led his team of several crew chiefs and one individual from the structural repair shop, Senior Airman Hayden Lessor.
Lessor mentioned, “…it was a really good opportunity and obviously joining (the military) I wanted to go see the world… you hear that everyone knows about the Green Mountain Boys and as soon as we got there, at least the structural guys, they said, ‘We’ve heard great things about you.’”
As the trip advanced, the VTANG team was able to provide recently adopted insight and concepts of the F-16 Phase process to the Colorado airmen.
“When we got out there and began talking to their team, we realized that they had some inexperience and had gone through a number of changes in personnel just like we had about four or five years ago when our core really jumped on board. This was a great opportunity to share certain management practices and the way we organize our phase… So we had the opportunity to see that they were going to develop further, faster and be set up for success on these trips because the way we carry ourselves back home,” noted Staff Sgt. Adam Bentley.
Mullen concurred, “It would’ve been great for us to do this five years ago; ten years ago; we got just as much from them as they got from us because there were things they do better, and there were things we do better.”
Additionally, our Rocky Mountain friends wanted to share their appreciation of their home state with their Vermont brethren.
As expressed by Mullen, “The Colorado guys were super awesome hosts! Anything we needed they would bust down doors to get it for us; they were very accommodating!”
There is something to be said about the value of shared growth, continued engagement in the process of building a partnership and the candor required for this mutually beneficial arrangement. Both teams provided foundations of mutual trust and harmony because our nation’s military trains in the same manner as we fight. Here, like-minded airmen developed themselves while taking an active role in the development of their colleagues.
Staff Sgt. Bentley concluded, “Especially with the F-35 coming, using this (trip) has shown to be very beneficial because you’re going to learn. Instead of getting md-way through a process or at the end of it, as soon as you’re starting up you have these processes identified; they will take that knowledge and share that with us to have an efficient process set up for success.”