Thursday, March 15, 2012
Face of Defense: Airman Keeps A-10s Flying in Afghanistan
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. – The anatomy of an aircraft system contains miles of wire, thousands of sensors, hundreds of dials, indicators and switches.
Yet, with surgeon-like skill, Air Force Senior Airman Shawn Watters is able to decipher the intricacies of an aircraft's electrical and environmental systems.
Watters serves as a 442nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft technician in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He’s assigned to phase dock, where he and his team conduct more than 500 inspection hours on the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
"We ensure our systems remain fully operational during inspections and fix any discrepancies,” Watters said. "A lot of preventative maintenance is carried out in the phase dock.”
His mission as an electrical and environmental technician is to primarily handle the jet's crucial systems, such as the flight deck pressurization, landing gear, internal and external lighting, and the electrical systems.
"We also assist the fuels and engines shops and the crew chiefs with various troubleshooting," Watters explained. "Additionally, we run the liquid oxygen farm on base where we fill oxygen tanks for the C-130 Hercules, [used for] medical evacuations."
He typically works more than 12 hours-a-day to complete assigned tasks at the phase dock, but said he doesn’t mind. He knows his hard work has a direct impact on the mission.
"Working on the A-10 is amazing because it directly supports the soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen on the ground fighting," Watters said. "I know that what I am doing helps ensure my brothers-in-arms come home safe. I love that my mission is primarily troop support, and that is a good feeling."
While his duties on base here differ from what he is doing with his deployed assignment, Watters said he enjoys what he does.
"At Whiteman, I am a flightline environmental and electrical technician, so the job is very different," he said. "At home I troubleshoot more often, and I have to problem-solve quickly. The flightline is more unpredictable than the phase dock, because on the line you never know when work is going to occur."
Watters, who departed two days after Christmas, is set to redeploy this summer. The best part of his deployment so far, he noted, is the mission and the people.
"I work alongside people from the 442nd Fighter Wing, and our unit is like a family; they have been great," he said. "I am fortunate to have met so many new people."
Watters also volunteers as a mail carrier and for litter carrier duty. For the latter, he carries wounded troops from the base's hospital to the aircraft that is taking them out of the war zone.
"It feels good that I'm helping fight against terrorism and now have the opportunity to support Operation Enduring Freedom," he said. "That is why we are here."