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31st AMXS perform safe, aircraft maintenance anytime, anywhere

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonah Schuline, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, services liquid oxygen bottles for multiple F-16 Fighting Falcons at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. Crew chiefs service the liquid oxygen bottles of the F-16s daily to ensure aircrews have breathable oxygen while flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonah Schuline, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, services liquid oxygen bottles for multiple F-16 Fighting Falcons at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. Crew chiefs service the liquid oxygen bottles of the F-16s daily to ensure aircrews have breathable oxygen while flying. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonah Schuline, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, services liquid oxygen (LOX) bottles for multiple F-16 Fighting Falcons at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. LOX is pressurized oxygen that is cooled to minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit, turning it into a boiling liquid. Ramirez wore a face shield, coveralls, gloves, and boots to protect his skin from contact burns. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jonah Schuline, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, services liquid oxygen (LOX) bottles for multiple F-16 Fighting Falcons at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. LOX is pressurized oxygen that is cooled to minus 297 degrees Fahrenheit, turning it into a boiling liquid. Ramirez wore a face shield, coveralls, gloves, and boots to protect his skin from contact burns. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ronelson Perdomo, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, noncommissioned officer in charge, stamps an F-16 Fighting Falcon form at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. The 31st AMXS supports the 31st Fighter Wing, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and NATO contingency and combat aircraft maintenance requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ronelson Perdomo, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, noncommissioned officer in charge, stamps an F-16 Fighting Falcon form at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. The 31st AMXS supports the 31st Fighter Wing, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and NATO contingency and combat aircraft maintenance requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Airmen from the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tow an F-16 Fighting Falcon out of a hangar at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. The 31st AMXS provides diverse repair capabilities for aircraft, avionics, weapons and propulsion systems to support delivery of conventional precision-guided and special weapons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Airmen from the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron tow an F-16 Fighting Falcon out of a hangar at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. The 31st AMXS provides diverse repair capabilities for aircraft, avionics, weapons and propulsion systems to support delivery of conventional precision-guided and special weapons. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nicole Almario, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew chief, examines the inside of an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. Crew chiefs routinely inspect and service the aircraft to ensure mission and operational readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nicole Almario, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew chief, examines the inside of an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. Crew chiefs routinely inspect and service the aircraft to ensure mission and operational readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Zachary Semmer, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, left, Tech. Sgt. Nicole Almario, 31st AMXS weapons load crew chief, center, and Airman 1st Class Kayla Caswell, 31st AMXS weapons load crew member, right, perform an inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. The 31st AMXS supports the 31st Fighter Wing, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and NATO contingency and combat aircraft maintenance requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Zachary Semmer, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron weapons load crew member, left, Tech. Sgt. Nicole Almario, 31st AMXS weapons load crew chief, center, and Airman 1st Class Kayla Caswell, 31st AMXS weapons load crew member, right, perform an inspection on an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. The 31st AMXS supports the 31st Fighter Wing, U.S. Air Forces in Europe and NATO contingency and combat aircraft maintenance requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alex Peguero, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, services a tire of an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. Crew chiefs routinely inspect and service the aircraft to ensure mission and operational readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alex Peguero, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, services a tire of an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. Crew chiefs routinely inspect and service the aircraft to ensure mission and operational readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alex Peguero, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, services a tire of an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. Crew chiefs routinely inspect and service the aircraft to ensure mission and operational readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever).

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alex Peguero, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, services a tire of an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Aviano Air Base, Italy, Feb. 1, 2021. Crew chiefs routinely inspect and service the aircraft to ensure mission and operational readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Ericka A. Woolever).

AVIANO AIR BASE, ITALY --

The early morning was still as clouds covered the dark skies. Frost grew over the ground; it was the type of cold that reached into the bones. The only thing they could do was keep moving. A few Airmen forced their breath into their hands and rubbed them together for just a few seconds of heat. 

Yet the crew chiefs’ faces did not show one ounce of discomfort, instead set with a sense of willingness and dedication. 

“I always look for the positives in every situation,” said Senior Airman Neil Farbotnik, 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, dedicated crew chief. “It’s easy for me to say that being a maintainer has allowed me to develop and grow as a person.”

Tactical Aircraft Maintenance specialists, also known as crew chiefs, are responsible for every component of an aircraft. They make sure that the aircraft in their care are ready to fly at a moment's notice so pilots can safely and effectively complete their mission. 

“One mistake, misjudgment or ounce of laziness can result in loss of life, damage to aircraft, or injury to personnel,” said Farbotnik. “It’s a lot of pressure, and it never gets easier. We just have to get better.”

Some would consider aircraft maintainers to be a major part of the foundation of the world’s greatest Air Force. 

“Everything you do as a maintainer has a direct impact on the mission, whether it’s inspecting a small piece of equipment or a 40-million-dollar aircraft,” said Farbotnik. 

As jets soar into the sky to provide combat airpower, Farbotnik explains how much responsibility maintainers have.

“Maintainers are the mission,” said Farbotnik. “We control the fate of these aircraft which in turn controls the fate of the pilots and everyone else.”

Aircraft maintainers are briefed daily about the task and goals of the day. They are then issued a set of tools before making their way to the aircraft they are assigned to, said Farbotnik. 

“When I get to the spot, I immediately check that the jet is pinned and safe for maintenance,” said Farbotnik.  “Then look over the jet to make sure nothing was missed or out of limits before I begin preparing my jet.”

Farbotnik explained that he runs through numerous tasks before he can pull the chalks and send the jets off. 

“Between our three shifts there is always some type of preparation that is required to get the aircraft ready, whether it's inspections, servicing or preparing it,” said Farbotnik.

The groundwork for the mission never stops, because once the maintainers complete the current task at hand, they are preparing for the next one.

“The preparation for a new mission or day of flying starts the second that these aircraft shutdown,” said Farbotnik.

Farbotnik explains that all the dedication to accomplishing the mission is rewarding to see firsthand.

“Whether it’s raining, snowing, or scorching hot we are out there,” said Farbotnik. “We make missions happen.”