Cannon behind the scenes: crew chiefs with caliber

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shawn Cushman and Airman 1st Class Danny Beckwith, 522nd Special Operations Squadron crew chiefs, perform an inspection atop an MC-130J Commando II at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., March 7, 2012. Crew chiefs must ensure aircraft configurations meet Air Force Special Operations Command standards before they are cleared for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Shawn Cushman and Airman 1st Class Danny Beckwith, 522nd Special Operations Squadron crew chiefs, perform an inspection atop an MC-130J Commando II at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., March 7, 2012. Crew chiefs must ensure aircraft configurations meet Air Force Special Operations Command standards before they are cleared for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Danny Beckwith, 522nd Special Operations Squadron crew chief, inspects electrical components on the MC-130J Commando II at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., March 7, 2012. Crew chiefs must ensure aircraft configurations meet Air Force Special Operations Command standards before they are cleared for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Danny Beckwith, 522nd Special Operations Squadron crew chief, inspects electrical components on the MC-130J Commando II at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., March 7, 2012. Crew chiefs must ensure aircraft configurations meet Air Force Special Operations Command standards before they are cleared for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Danny Beckwith, 522nd Special Operations Squadron crew chief, checks the hydraulics system on the MC-130J Commando II at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., March 7, 2012. Crew chiefs must ensure aircraft configurations meet Air Force Special Operations Command standards before they are cleared for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Danny Beckwith, 522nd Special Operations Squadron crew chief, checks the hydraulics system on the MC-130J Commando II at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., March 7, 2012. Crew chiefs must ensure aircraft configurations meet Air Force Special Operations Command standards before they are cleared for flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- *This feature is the seventh in a series of Air Commando highlights at Cannon.

Picture walking into a hangar - an enormous warehouse used to house the various aircraft stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Now imagine the hustle and bustle of Air Commandos maneuvering around newest MC-130J Commando II performing systems checks. Ultimately, the crew chiefs assigned to the 522nd Special Operations Squadron will approve whether or not their most technically advanced mission asset meets standards set forth by Air Force Special Operations Command.

"We have to perform in-depth and thorough inspections of various components to ensure configurations are accurate," said Staff Sgt. Shawn Cushman, 522nd Special Operations Squadron dedicated crew chief. "AFSOC has stringent requirements in place and it's our job to make sure all are met for flying needs."

The 522 SOS is one of the eight flying squadrons assigned to the 27th Special Operations Wing. Crew chiefs in the squadron help plan prepare and execute missions directly in support of Special Operations Forces as well as infiltration, exfiltration, aerial refueling and air delivery.

"Crew chiefs have a hand in everything from launch and recovery, to inspections and servicing," said Cushman. "We are essentially managers of our aircraft. An effective crew chief will be able to know exactly what's going on with their craft at any time."

The 522 SOS has more than 50 crew chiefs to maintain the MC-130Js assigned to Cannon. Each craft is valued at about $83 million.

"The new J-models are very user friendly and much faster than their predecessors," said Airman 1st Class Danny Beckwith, 522 SOS assistant dedicated crew chief. "The advances will ensure air worthiness of the aircraft, safety for our crews and allow us to effectively continue our mission."

The 522 SOS's crew chiefs play a vital role in the MC-130Js mission. They are highly skilled maintainers capable of responding to multiple issues within their assigned craft, to include overseeing minor inspections from other agencies.

While the job itself may be meticulous and the hours can sometimes be grueling, younger Air Commandos like Beckwith focus on the chance to be a part of AFSOC and the mission of the 27 SOW.

"Honestly I love being here at Cannon and having first-hand experience on AFSOCs newest aircraft," said Beckwith. "Aside from having an impressive mission, all the growth happening here makes you feel as though you're part of something bigger than yourself."