Cannon behind the scenes: masters of maintenance

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman David Woliver, 16th Aircraft Maintenance Unit aircraft hydraulics systems journeyman, works on the utility system hydraulic vent line filter aboard the AC-130H Spectre gunship at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Oct. 25, 2011. This gives the crew the ability to indicate whether there is a potential danger in the system based on fluid levels within the reservoir. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

Senior Airman David Woliver, 16th Aircraft Maintenance Unit aircraft hydraulics systems journeyman, works on the utility system hydraulic vent line filter aboard the AC-130H Spectre gunship at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M., Oct. 25, 2011. This component gives the crew the ability to indicate whether there is a potential danger in the system based on fluid levels within the reservoir. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Alexxis Pons Abascal)

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

The Air Commandos with the 27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 16th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, share a strong family bond, along with an immeasurable sense of pride for the work they do.

"We don't have the numbers we could really use, but where we lack in manning, we more than make up for in qualifications," said Staff Sgt. Kirt Wattier, 16 AMU aircraft hydraulics systems craftsman. "We do our jobs to a 'T'. We make sure if there's work to get done, it gets done properly the first time around."

The 16 AMU maintains, inspects and troubleshoots hydraulics systems on all AC-130H Spectre gunships. Cannon is home to all of the Air Force's AC-130s, valued at more than $1 billion.

The climate and environment at Cannon plays a role in the amount of work the hydraulics crew receives per week. If there is an unusual flux in temperature from day to night for instance, that could directly affect the expansion and contraction of component seals, fluid viscosity and fluid levels within the aircraft.

"The great thing about our line of work is that it isn't aircraft specific," said Senior Airman David Woliver, 16 AMU aircraft hydraulics systems journeyman. "We are able to check components, operations subassemblies, make adjustments and synchronize not just our AC-130H, but also the AC-130U Spooky gunship, MC-130P Combat Shadow and MC-130H Combat Talon."

The 16 AMU is currently working to get their newer Air Commandos spun up on flightline maintenance. This would help those younger Airmen being trained in preparation for future deployments and possible TDY opportunities.

The 16 AMU deploys worldwide to provide maintenance support of Air Force Special Operations Command exercises and contingency operations.

"Our greatest asset to AFSOC is our qualifications," Wattier said. "We are able to assist a multitude of aircraft and service members from numerous bases in a deployed environment. In the end, our mission is to make sure all aircraft are 100 percent functional."

It is this ability to deploy as a unit and work on many airframes within AFSOC that allows the 16 AMU to build amazing relations with fellow Airmen overseas as well as within the unit.

"We all have so much pride in the work we do at Cannon and under AFSOC," Woliver said. "We have an awesome history with our aircraft; it's been part of nearly every major conflict since Vietnam, and it's an honor to be a part of that history."

"We are the blood of the aircraft," Wattier said. "We are the ones who control the movements of the craft."