CHARLESTON, S.C. - Airmen from the 437th Maintenance Group, at Joint Base Charleston Air Base, competed in the Aircraft Maintenance Technology Skills Competition, March 7-9, in Las Vegas, Nev.
Twelve airmen were split into two separate teams with each having one mentor and one team captain appointed to supervise and lead them through the competition.
The two JB Charleston teams competed against 135 other competitors in 16 different events spanning five categories. The competition brought together teams from the U.S. and foreign armed forces as well as U.S. and foreign civilians from the aircraft maintenance community.
“We trained as one single team here before the competition,” said Master Sgt. Jacob Wall, 437th Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance non commissioned officer in charge and the team one mentor. “Once I and Master Sgt. Michael Payne, 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent who is originally from Johnstown, Pa., and team two mentor, were done preparing the Airmen for the competition, they did the rest.”
The two teams distinguished themselves with banners that had their team name stitched onto them. Team one took the name “Charleston Ace’s of Maintenance” with team two trade marking themselves as the “Spirit of Charleston.”
As the competition began, the airmen were at an immediate disadvantage because the aircraft and aircraft systems they would be working on were all civilian aircraft. The Charleston Airmen work primarily on C-17 Globemaster III’s.
“The majority of events took the airmen out of their regular elements,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Breaux, 437th MXS sheet metal technician. “Each one of them stepped up to complete the task at hand whether it was their area of expertise or not.”
Staff Sgt. Sean Nappier, 437th AMXS avionics technician and Senior Airman Kevin Meredith, 437th MXS aerospace propulsion journeyman, played a key role in helping the “Ace’s of Maintenance” take first in the wheel and brake portion of the competition.
“The wheel and brake portion of the competition is specifically designed to test the skills of crew chiefs, but since we didn’t have a crew chief on our team Sgt. Nappier and Airman Meredith stepped up and filled the spot,” said Breaux, who is originally from Baton rouge La.
Meredith, originally from Maumee, Ohio, was awarded the coveted Professional AMT award on the last day of the competition. The award is given to the competitor who presents themselves in the most professional manner in both appearance and behavior as well as being knowledgeable and a team player.
"It was an honor and a pleasure to be selected for the Professional AMT award,” said Meredith. “It came as a complete shock to me; I wasn't out there trying to win anything, only to do the best for my team. I don't feel like I did anything special or different from anyone else, I was just taking in the experience and having fun.”
Meredith went on to talk about what he learned from the competition.
“The best part of the competition was seeing and meeting new challenges in maintenance; we had never seen or touched anything we worked on at the competition. Additionally, we got the chance to see how the civilian aircraft industry works and had the opportunity to meet a lot of great people."
The two Charleston teams competed alongside airmen from Joint Base Lewis McChord, who designed the Rigid Line Troubleshooting event, which tests a team’s ability to detect and repair a rigid metal line.
“It was great to have the rivalry portion in the competition always going head to head with McChord,” said Wall. “We definitely enjoyed beating them at their own event.”
The “Ace’s of Maintenance” took third in the Rigid Line Troubleshooting event beating McChord. The team also took third place overall in the military portion of the competition.
“This was the first year we’ve had the chance to compete in this competition,” said Wall, originally from Yadkinville, N.C. “I heard about this competition while on a deployment, but it was our group commander, Col. James Clavenna, who really pushed for us to go.”
Every member of the team was hand selected by unit leadership based on their experience and exemplary performance on the day-to-day operational mission.
The teams did not go to the event alone. Chief Master Sgt. Steve Windorf, 437th AMXS superintendent, was on-hand to watch them compete.
“It was exciting to watch our folks go head-to-head in the competition against the other bases and civilian airliners,” said Windorf, who is originally from Liberty, Mo. “Every event they continued to amaze me with their leadership, teamwork and vast maintenance knowledge. My favorite part of the event was when our teams showcased their unbelievable teamwork in the engine component event. Seeing the entire team working together as one to accomplish the goal was inspiring.”
The teams used everything from screwdrivers to torque wrenches and even computers to compete in the events.
“We didn’t just stick to our common labels of ‘spark chasers’ [electricians], tin benders [sheet metal technicians] or pointy heads [avionics],” said Breaux. “We had to work with a lot of technical equipment we had never seen before.”
The competitors from the “Ace’s of Maintenance” received plaques to place on their desks or in their trophy cases at home for taking third overall in the military portion of the competition.