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58th Maintenance Group takes seven major awards in 2020

Airmen perform a pre-flight inspection.

Airmen assigned to the 58th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron perform a pre-flight inspection of an MC-130J Commando II on Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, June 9, 2020. The aircraft is Kirtland’s first ‘Black Letter’ aircraft, meaning it has zero maintenance discrepancies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ireland Summers)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

The three groups under the 58th Special Operations Wing enjoyed a prosperous 2020. Despite the pandemic, the 58th Operations, 58th Maintenance, and 366th Training Groups produced combat-ready Airmen across six locations, ranging from Alaska to North Carolina. Particularly, the 58th Maintenance Group produced a wealth of annual accolades.

The 58th MXG earned seven major awards in 2020. Most notably, the group secured a consecutive Air Education and Training Command Maintenance Effectiveness Award. MXG commander Col. John Baquet called the accomplishment “a proud yet humbling achievement considering the talent each maintenance group across the MAJCOM brings to bear on generating airpower”

“[I’m] not just proud of each individual effort, but the combined effort of the entire Total Force Team,” Baquet said. “Behind each award winner are echelons of Total Force Airmen who step up to the plate everyday -- rain or shine. Our teams produce airpower in a dynamic environment.”

Baquet said that a culture of “pride, professionalism and determination” has developed in response to the immense scope of responsibility the 58 SOW carries.

“As the birthplace of Air Force Special Operations and search and rescue capabilities, we’re responsible for forging and sharpening the tip of the spear. Whether we fly or falter, the effects ripple straight to the frontlines. That’s an immense responsibility, but an equally powerful source of purpose,” Baquet said.

In addition to the Maintenance Effectiveness Award, the MXG also won the Logistics Officers Association’s 2020 Trailblazer Award for innovation. The team created unique CV-22 “fly” windows in order to invest in maintaining health of the fleet. Additionally, they partnered with industry and brought augmented reality and virtual reality training platforms that improved training capability almost 20 %. Baquet mentioned these efforts were grassroots born.

“By cultivating that organic, bottom-up innovation, we’ve found ways to sustainably ’work smarter, not harder’ and throw out the myopic insanity of ‘no pain, no gain.’”

In addition to the organizational awards, several individuals were recognized by AETC with the Leo Marquez Award. The Marquez Award is the most prestigious maintenance award, presented to those who have demonstrated the highest degree of sustained job performance, job knowledge, and efficiency. The award is named in honor of Belen, N.M., native and New Mexico State University graduate Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez, a leader and staunch advocate for maintainers everywhere.

Team Kirtland Wingman Patricia Knighten, daughter of the late Lt. Gen. Marquez, said her family was honored by the Airmen receiving the award.

“The Marquez family feels great pride in the recognition of those Airmen presented with the Leo Marquez Award. By honoring their excellent performance and commitment to keep our Air Force flying, our father is honored for his life work and unfailing dedication to them. He was passionate and sincere in evangelizing the work of maintenance and logistics professionals -- on the flightline, in the field, and at the depots,” Knighten said. “As one who stays close to the logistics and maintenance community, I can declare without hesitation that in today’s Air Force, they are exceeding his expectations and living his brightest vision.”

Senior Airman Alexander Stillinger, 58 AMXS, won the Leo Marquez technician category. Stillinger filled NCOIC gaps during COVID operations for more than 90 days. His peers recognized him with the Knuckle Buster Award for his personal effort and determination getting after the mission. Notably, Stillinger is the unit's sole “specialist” Dedicated Crew Chief. Earning the DCC title as a specialist is a no small feat, according to squadron commander Lt. Col. Lisa Stokey. Stilinger’s aircraft was the 58th SOW’s first “black letter” aircraft, meaning it did not have any open maintenance discrepancies left to fix. Based on the age of our aircraft, complexity of our systems, and availability of parts, this is an uncommon accomplishment.

“I am so incredibly proud of Alex. He’s leading and embodies what our force needs to accelerate change,” Stokey said.

Stokey, 58 AMXS commander, earned the AETC Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Field Grade Manager category award. As the AMXS commander, she is responsible for all sortie-generation efforts within the MXG. Her efforts enabled 5,000 inspections and repairs to generate more than 1,300 flight hours and 669 sorties to produce a remarkable 361 SOF graduates, Baquet explained

“Under Lt. Col. Stokey’s leadership, our Airmen embraced three guiding principles: solidarity, strength and grit,” Baquet said. “Solidarity endows us with the foundational courage to withstand adversity without collapsing under pressure; strength provides the drive to push through adversity and come out on top; and grit sustains that drive for the iterative long haul of continuous improvement.”

Dave Wiesner won the AETC Leo Marquez Civilian Maintenance Manager category. As the director of maintenance, he oversees the day-to-day operations of the entire Kirtland maintenance complex. His process-improvement efforts enabled CV-22 phase operations to return aircraft to flying status 18 days sooner. Moreover, he directly contributed to a rapid-improvement event sponsored by Headquarters Air Force. His analysis and led enterprise-wide momentum directly affecting 52 recommendations, according to Baquet.

“Mr. Wiesner is the epitome of service,” Baquet said. ”Day in and day out, he leads our operations, mentors our Airmen and solves for yes. There is no better teammate.”

Tech Sgt. Josh Martin received the 2020 AETC Support Professional of the Year award. This category highlights those who do not directly touch aircraft in the sortie-generation process but influence it from afar. As one of the group’s best-qualified crew chiefs, he belongs to the MXG’s quality assurance office. QA is the equivalent to any standardization office, or quality-control office inside DoD and industry. In this role, he provides credible oversight to ensure the MXG generates sorties safely and efficiently. Chief Master Sgt. Tim Jordan, 58 MXG superintendent, explained.

“Martin is the consummate professional. His extensive maintenance knowledge helps ensure that the MXG is compliant and performing maintenance safely, reliably and by the book,” Jordan said.

Finally, Maj. Nathan Lucero, the Maintenance Operations Flight commander, received the 2020 AETC Lew Allen Award for Sortie Generation. The award is named for the 10th Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Allen advocated for logistics due to high cost and difficulty of fielding maintenance processes to generate airpower.

“Nate won this award for his full-spectrum look at sortie generation. He led his teams to introduce a growth in bench stock to the tune of $2 million while decreasing our aircraft non-mission capable time by 30%,” Baquet said.

The award haul was a testament to fortitude and perseverance, according to 58th SOW commander Col. Michael Curry. While COVID-19 posed challenges across the wing and the Air Force, Airmen kept vital missions going.

“I want to congratulate our Airmen in the MXG. Grit provided the drive to push through adversity and come out on top,” Curry said. “And perseverance sustained that drive and will ensure continuous improvement as we continue to deal with the pandemic and beyond.”

COVID-19 slowed ops at first, but the 58th SOW answered the demand signal from AETC leadership to keep the pipelines moving, Baquet said.

“COVID-19 slowed us down but did not break us,” he said. “In fact, the pandemic revealed multiple opportunities and efficiencies in our daily operations. Taking a knee or slowing down was an option, but not the right strategy in solving our aircrew shortages. Instead, our teams brought a ton of problem-solving and critical thinking to bear. Then, we adjusted accordingly, as we learned we could produce more. It was an outstanding achievement.”

Baquet also explained that the MXG relied on partner units within the 58th SOW and the Total Force Structure with the New Mexico Air National Guard’s 150th Special Operations Wing and 150th MXG. Together, the 58th and 150th MXGs include more than 850 Airmen, contractors, and civilians generating specialized airpower.

In 2020, the groups performed flightline and back-shop maintenance at both the organizational and intermediate level for 36 aircraft across five unique Mission Design Series: five MC-130J, three HC-130J, eight UH-1N, 12 HH-60G, and eight CV-22B aircraft.

“On top of that, we also champion the DoD’s only centralized Jet Engine Intermediate Maintenance facility, responsible for overhauling over 500 helicopter T400/T701 engines,” Baquet added.

In an award-winning 2020, the MXG enabled 11,900-plus flying hours, 4.4K sorties, executed over 98K maintenance actions to graduate 468 aircrew students.