AFSOC deputy commander visits 58th SOW at Kirtland AFB

  • Published
  • By John Cochran
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The deputy commander of Air Force Special Operations Command visited the Airmen of the 58th Special Operations Wing and the New Mexico Air National Guard’s 150th SOW at Kirtland AFB, N.M., Sept. 1, 2021.

Maj. Gen. Eric T. Hill received briefings on total force integration, the close working relationship between operations and maintenance, and the 71st Aircraft Maintenance Unit’s innovations to increase CV-22 aircraft availability for flying training.

“Humans are more important than hardware. Human capital is our competitive advantage. We can say that because you all here are the ones who make the first impression on every air commando who comes through the pipeline. You set the right tone and the right mindset. I’m really impressed with the innovation and the work I see happening here at the 58th SOW,” he said.

The general said change is coming to AFSOC, based on the interim national defense strategy’s pivot from counterterrorism operations to strategic competition.

The commander of the 58th SOW, Col. Michael Curry, said, “Gen. Hill’s visit gave us a chance to show him our process and progress, the professionalism of our Airmen, and the way we manage the entire training program, so we can produce capable graduates for the operational squadrons.”

Col. Lance Myerson, commander of the 58th Maintenance Group, said the 58 SOW’s CV-22 Ospreys, flown by the 71st Special Operations Squadron and maintained by the 71st AMU, are outperforming other AFSOC units in flying-hour availability.

“The general is here to understand why we’re doing better than everybody else. We have less manning than all the other units, we have the lowest supply priorities because we’re a training unit, and we’re in the most austere environment that we fly these aircraft in. It takes us 50 man-hours (of maintenance) for every flying hour – roughly twice as much as units on the East Coast,” he said.

The deputy director of the 58th Maintenance Group, David Wiesner, described how it started and how it’s going.

“It was probably April 2019, all the airplanes were broken every day, and we were scrambling. The maintenance leadership team said, ‘Enough is enough. What can we do to dig out of this hole? Nobody’s going to come save us.’ It was a positive attitude to innovate and be creative. We went to a leader in the commercial airline industry to find out what their journey was, to get from where they were in 2010 to 2018, with the (reduced) number of maintenance cancels. All that was process improvement, and how you get after things. It was people figuring out, ‘What can we do to help ourselves be successful?’ We got our ops teammates onboard and said, ‘Here’s what we think – let’s try it.’ We briefed the group, who said ‘OK, go for it, and fine-tune as you need to.’ We came up with some initiatives about the flying schedule, working with ops, looking at having the right people on shifts, the right skill levels … we went from 75 days in phase (heavy maintenance) to about 30 days. There’s no one silver bullet. We looked at all the issues that were causing us grief in the phase process, and were able to bring on some additional contract maintenance experts who were able to do certain things that we could not,” he said.

Problem-solving innovations, born of necessity and powered by teamwork, are enabling a higher level of mission success at the 58th SOW.