In the News

In the News (101)

Monday, 03 June 2013 15:29

New secretary

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Under Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning was sworn in by Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley during a formal ceremony May 31, 2013, at the Pentagon here.

In his duties, Fanning will be responsible for the efficient and effective management of Air Force resources and serve as the senior Air Force energy official. Additionally, he will serve as the focal point for space operations, policy and acquisition issues on the Air Force staff.

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On the flightline with F-16 Fighting Falcons roaring in the background, a crew chief tries to wipe the sweat from his forehead, but ends up just smearing grease on his face as he crawls from under a jet.

The aircraft component he has been waiting for has finally arrived, and within minutes of receiving the part the Airman was back under the jet, his uniform soaked in grease and sweat.

"It simply cannot happen without us," said Staff Sgt. Sean Rindfleisch, 510th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief, referring to day-to-day flying operations.

According to Staff Sgt. Christopher Mustard, 510th AMU expediter, aircraft maintenance is the overall focal point for the whole aircraft. Crew chiefs have many responsibilities including managing repairs, preparing a jet to fly and ensuring the safety of the pilots on their assigned aircraft. Other shops assist with specific jobs, but at the end of the day, it is a crew chief's responsibility to make sure the jet is capable of flying.

While working in hot weather conditions inside a stagnant protective aircraft shelter, crew chiefs and maintainers have their own language and bond while working together to relieve job stress.

"We describe our camaraderie as one giant family," said Staff Sgt. AnnMarie Ringer, 510th AMU dedicated crew chief. "Our leadership are considered our dads and we are the children. We fight like brothers and sisters all the time, but when we spend more time at work with each other than at home, it does nothing but bring us closer together."

"I feel a lot closer than I would to other people on the base because of the sarcasm we have here on the flightline. Isn't that right, dad," Rindfleisch said to Mustard.

"When we joke around, it's because we are all working in the same conditions and try to make the best of it at that specific time," he continued.

With grease and dirt under their fingernails, this family of Airmen is always alert because in their line of work, things can change at a moment's notice.

"To explain what I have to deal with on the job is best described as a fortune cookie," said Staff Sgt. Eddie Santana, 510th AMU dedicated crew chief, after getting hydraulic fluid spilled in his lap. "Inside it always says, 'Be prepared for a new and different tomorrow.'

"Everything we do varies from day to day," he said. "We can tow an aircraft, change a gearbox, fix an engine and then be responsible for additional duties such as enlisted performance reports and advising Airmen. Regardless of what it is, we somehow find a way to get dirty."

While many parts of their job can be difficult for these Airmen, they agree the most difficult part of their job is switching aircraft and having to learn a new system. Crew chiefs may have worked on an F-15 Strike Eagle at a previous base and come to Aviano to work on an F-16.

"It's like working on an old Chevy 350 and then getting sent to work on a Toyota Prius," said Santana.

With smiles covered in grease and dirt and Airmen never knowing what to expect, the dedicated crew chiefs for the 510th Aircraft Maintenance Unit are always prepared and can't imagine doing anything differently.

"I love what I do. My parents think it's the coolest thing ever," said Rindfleisch. "It may not be a big deal for some, but to have your name on the side of a multi-million dollar aircraft is unbelievable. After nine years in the Air Force, that will never grow old."

5/24/2013 AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy

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Thursday, 28 March 2013 00:00

Prior Buzzard Hits 3,000 F-16 Hours

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Col. Patrick McKenzie, 51st Fighter Wing commander, joined a small elite group of pilots by reaching 3,000 hours in an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Osan, March 28, 2013.

"I feel very lucky to have been able to reach this feat," said McKenzie. "This is a rare accomplishment for any fighter pilot, I have been blessed to fly the F-16 long enough to reach the mark."

McKenzie started his career as a pilot by attending Undergraduate Pilot Training at Reese Air Force Base, Texas, in March of 1989. From there he was sent to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and began his career as an F-16 pilot in August of 1990.

He has flown the F-16 at Moody AFB, Osan AB, Aviano AB, Luke AFB, AZ, and he was the 455th Expeditionary Operations Group Commander at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan before commanding the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan.

"While I get to personally reach the milestone, it is not something that I accomplished myself. Many others to include maintainers, support personnel, and fellow fighter pilots have all made this milestone attainable."

Only a little more than 200 F-16 pilots worldwide are documented as sharing this 3,000-hour achievement.

Published by:  51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs, OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea

Col. David Walker, 31st Operations Group commander, passes the 510th Fighter Squadron guidon to its new commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Austin, during a change of command ceremony May 13, 2013, at Aviano Air Base, Italy. Austin assumed command after Lt. Col. Michael Thompson stepped down as the squadron commander.

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Tuesday, 02 April 2013 07:00

Aviano Viper Drivers Fly with Spanish

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More than 250 airmen and 14 F-16s from Aviano AB, Italy, trained with Spanish airmen and fighters at Zaragoza AB, Spain. This training is an annual event to help improve interoperability with these NATO partners, according to Aviano's April 1 release. Members of Aviano's 510th Fighter Squadron took part in air-to-air training drills with Spanish F-18s and EF-2000 Eurofighters and also conducted air-to-ground training, including close air support and large-force employment, states the release. "The training allows the pilots to employ full-scale heavyweight training munitions, as well as fly against different airframes, which helps expand the corporate combat knowledge of the squadron," said Capt. Seth Taylor, 510th FS project officer. The Aviano contingent returned home on March 27.
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Wednesday, 13 February 2013 18:13

Former Buzzard Lt to be Squadron Commander

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Lieutenant Colonel John Marusa, or as we all know him "Farmer", will assume Command of the 457th Fighter Squadron on 3 March 2013.  The Air Force, the Reserves and Gaurd are full of many former Buzzard's providing outstanding service to our Great Nation. Congratulations to Farmer and his beautiful wife Dairy.
Wednesday, 30 January 2013 00:00

Aviano Augments Search for Missing Pilot

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The 31st Fighter Wing launched several of its F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft Jan. 29 to join the ongoing search effort for a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot who was declared missing during a nighttime training mission Jan. 28.

The fighter jets will provide further assistance to the robust rescue operation already underway, joining U.S. and Italian aircraft and ships. Capt. Lucas Gruenther, 31st Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, was conducting an F-16 training sortie over the Adriatic Sea when contact was lost with his aircraft.

Friday, 01 February 2013 00:00

Missing F-16 Pilot's Body Recovered

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Buzzards everywhere send their deepest condolences as well as our thoughts and prayers to the friends and family of Lucas.  A terrible loss....

An Italian vessel on the Adriatic Sea on Thursday recovered the body of F-16 pilot Capt. Lucas Gruenther, announced officials at Aviano AB, Italy. Gruenther had been missing since Monday when contact was lost with his F-16 during a nighttime training mission over the water. He was chief of flight safety for Aviano's 31st Fighter Wing.

U.S. and Bulgarian Airmen launched Thracian Star 2012, a joint training exercise focused on building partnerships and increasing interoperability, during a ceremony here April 18.

Brig. Gen. Tsanko Stoykov, the Bulgarian base commander, welcomed the 31st Fighter Wing Airmen from Aviano Air Base, Italy, emphasizing the significance of the month-long exercise and wished them well during their deployment.

U.S. pilots from the 555th and 510th Fighter Squadrons based out of Aviano Air Base, Italy, have been given a rare opportunity to train and share experiences with Bulgarian air force MiG-21 and MiG-29 pilots during their deployment here in support of Thracian Star 2012.

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