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Pave Hawk Maintainers Keep Rescue Birds Flying

Airman Joshua Herron, a 41st Expeditionary Helicopter Maintenance Unit HH-60 Pave Hawk crew chief, completes a 50-hour inspection on a Pave Hawk at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 28, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)
Airman Joshua Herron, a 41st Expeditionary Helicopter Maintenance Unit HH-60 Pave Hawk crew chief, completes a 50-hour inspection on a Pave Hawk at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, June 28, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Airmen assigned to the 41st Expeditionary Helicopter Maintenance Unit here constantly work maintaining HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters so that the combat rescue mission in Afghanistan can be a success if and when it is needed.

The 41st EHMU is part of the 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and is responsible for delivering airworthy helicopters to the expeditionary rescue squadron to complete its personnel recovery mission.

“Every three days we do an inspection on the helicopters to make sure everything is good on it,” said Airman 1st Class Trevor Krutsch, an 41st EHMU Pave Hawk crew chief. “We check levels, engine oil, tire pressure and everything else. Then we turn it over to the aircrew and it’s their bird to go out and perform (personnel recovery) missions. We support the aircrew so that they can support the mission to go out and save people’s lives and bring them home.”

When the rescue squadron goes out on personnel recovery missions, it’s critical that the maintainers have everything working properly so that aircrew can focus on the mission.

“It’s very important for us to make sure the helicopters are functioning properly,” Krutsch said. “Aircrews lives are literally in our hands. If we give them a helicopter that can break, they’re the ones on it not us. That is something we always keep in mind. We take care of them and the aircraft to make sure we are fully mission capable. 

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“Our whole mission is based around the survivor and what’s best for them,” Krutsch continued. “Our crews employ pararescuemen to accomplish that end. We support them with any tactical requirement that they might have. They’re the ones going out to do the dirty work, we just supply them with a fully mission capable helicopter.”

With the increased mission tempo in a deployed environment, maintenance is key, and the 41st EHMU maintainers do an excellent job keeping the over 23-year-old Pave Hawks flying.

“These are older airframes; they’ve got a lot of flight hours and are overweight for what they are designed to be, but we keep them going,” Krutsch said.

“Maintenance is important. If it’s in the air, maintenance put it there,” said Master Sgt. Alexander Sellner, the 41st EHMU superintendent. “We fix them and keep them flying. Without all the long hours and pride from maintenance that goes on, both scheduled and unscheduled, the mission wouldn’t happen.”

Even though the mission in Afghanistan is drawing down, the personnel recovery helicopter maintenance mission has not slowed down.

“With the drawdown in both personnel and assets in the (area of responsibility) the amount of responsibility for the remaining units is larger than ever,” Sellner said. “We’re responsible for a (personnel recovery) mission that covers roughly 272,000 square miles. U.S. forces and NATO’s Resolute Support mission partners are able to do their jobs everyday knowing that if something goes bad, we’ll be there to get them." 

Every day the 41st EHMU maintainers are hard at work keeping the combat rescue mission flying in Afghanistan.

“The Airmen are continually providing awesome maintenance; they’re continuing a long proud heritage of rescue maintainers by fixing and keeping the helicopters flying every day,” Sellner said. “We haven’t missed any mission or alert coverage because of maintenance, and I’m awful proud of that.”

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