AL ASAD, Iraq -- Dozens of articles have been written and hundreds of pictures taken of the KC-130J Hercules, touting the new model aircraft as a leap forward in military aviation, but what isn't necessarily documented is the team approach taken by the professional maintainers when mending the J-model's improved aircraft systems.
The maintenance sections of Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadrons 252 and 352, Marine Aircraft Group 16 (Reinforced), 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), have adjusted their approach to fixing the aircraft, as its various components became more integrated in the new J-model.
The previous models of the Hercules contained components that were less integrated than the J-model, which created a less-coordinated maintenance structure.
"Everything is connected with the new J-model," said Cpl. Nick A. Thiessen, a KC-130 electrical systems technician and a Schenectady, N.Y., native. I'm part of the electric shop, and if we don't work directly on something, then we assist the other sections, whether it's airframes or powerline."
According to several Marines from the maintenance sections, the J-model is a solid aircraft, but it still generates little gripes and repair jobs. Some are easy fixes, but others require hours of troubleshooting.
The discrepancies on the Hercules are found primarily by aircrews and routine inspections.
"When we get a (complaint) from the crew about a faulty signal being sent then it takes everybody to get the aircraft in the air again," said Sgt. Samuel Santiago, a KC-130 electronic systems technician. "We have to work hand-in-hand, because the ordnance section systems, the electric shop systems, the powerline shop systems are all tied together."
While the aircraft is in flight, the crew chiefs know enough to take immediate action to fix problems, but once they land, they give the maintenance sections a call for help, stated Santiago.
"The aircrew gives us input on the problems that occur in-flight," said Santiago, a Miami, native. "Sometimes the systems go bad in flight, but work back here. So what we have to try to do is simulate the conditions in flight, which we can't do in all cases like, midair refueling.
"In that case, (the maintenance sections) check their systems, going through them to recreate on the ground what happened in the air, duplicating the discrepancy," said Santiago. "Once one section's systems check out good, then we move on to the next until the discrepancy is found, always talking to one another, because its going to take working hand-in-hand to get the aircraft fixed."
With an aircraft full of cutting-edge technology, the maintenance sections rely on three sources of knowledge to keep the aircraft problem free.
"We were a little worried about how we would do out here with the J-model, but it definitely helps having F- and R-model experience behind you," said Thiessen.
"For most of the components, we use computers to check and tell us what's wrong," said Sgt. George A. Rano, a KC-130 communication and navigation systems technician and a Paterson, N.J., native. "The other great thing about the J-model is the publications. They are really helpful, showing a diagram of steps to take during maintenance."
With the advancement made in the J-model's capabilities and components, the Marine maintainers have stepped forward, as well, pressing ahead each day in a new integrated approach to Hercules maintenance.