Squadron of the Month: Team keeps C-17s in the air at Joint Base Charleston

Joint Base Charleston has one of the highest numbers of C-17 aircraft in the United States.
Published: May. 10, 2023 at 6:57 PM EDT|Updated: May. 10, 2023 at 7:36 PM EDT
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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - C-17 planes take off and land in the Charleston area almost every day and there is a team at Joint Base Charleston whose sole purpose is to make sure the planes are safe to fly.

Joint Base Charleston has one of the highest numbers of C-17 aircraft in the United States. There are 40 assigned to base out of the 222 across the nation. This fleet performs global airlift missions ranging from combat support operations and humanitarian relief to aeromedical evacuations.

Assignments many would recognize would be helping out in the evacuation of Afghanistan and the ongoing support of Ukraine.

“So Joint Base Charleston has supported U.S. Government efforts to support Ukraine through airlift and sealift,” Maj. Ian Mazerski, the 437th maintenance squadron commander, says. “Our big role in that is to make sure those aircraft are safe, reliable and ready to go when called upon to deliver that cargo.”

Those C-17s have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice. The 437th Maintenance Squadron, or MXS, is the team that’s responsible for making sure the C-17s are in tip-top shape.

“I’m pretty proud to work in the squadron I’m in, let alone the military,” Senior Airman Davie Phan, an Aerospace Ground Equipment journeyman, says. “I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

This squadron is composed of 440 combat-ready maintainers and support personnel who inspect, service, maintain and support assigned C-17 aircraft and associated equipment at Joint Base Charleston.

“We are all super proud and honored to be able to represent our country and represent the Air Force and do what we do every day,” Mazerski says. “It’s awesome to see our C-17s flying around in the local community, whether it’s over the Ravenel or otherwhere, knowing that we had a hand in putting them in the air.”

That maintenance starts with the big picture. They have what is called 180-day Home Station Check inspections, where they basically take apart the plane.

“What we’re doing is we break it down to a very in-depth level so we can ensure all of the components work,” Tech Sgt. Aaron Glover, an aircraft maintenance craftsman, says. “So, we will go through a set of work cards and do the in-depth inspection required. Some of it requires [us] to go to one of our back shop counterparts and they test it there - whether it be a bench test or some other things where they take apart, basically refurb it and then we put it back on the aircraft where we will do operational checks.”

A big part of those checks is on the engines themselves.

“Being a specialist, I specifically work on the engine of the C-17, which means I get to keep it safe,” Staff Sgt. Imani Vann Jackson, an aerospace propulsion craftsman, says. “I make sure that it’s reliable. I make sure that the aircrew returns home to their family based off the safeness of this aircraft and I make sure that they are mission-capable all the time. My favorite part would be after we have finalized the home station check and we have sold it back, which means our coordinators and our superintendents decide the jet is ready to take flight and it’s ready for mission. I enjoy seeing it take off knowing that, especially, when I see a tail number that I specifically ran on an aircraft, it’s very humbling knowing that I was almost the last person to ensure its safety. It’s invigorating.”

When crews find a component that is broken, that is when it goes to another team to get repaired.

“In this shop particularly the parts that we have to make sometimes have tolerances the thickness of a human hair so we have to be very precise,” Staff Sgt. J Waters, a metals technology craftsman, says.

On any given shift, they can have a multitude of parts that need to be finished by the next shift, so they have to knock it out as soon as possible. They also have varying different cutters and tools that are specially made for certain parts.

This team’s hard work is not going unnoticed. In fact, the 437th MSX is being recognized as one of the best. They were selected as the Air Mobility Command’s 2022 Maintenance Effectiveness Award Winner. And the work they did to get the award played out in the large formation exercise seen over the Ravenel Bridge back in January.