BANGOR, Maine — The Maine Air National Guard base in Bangor's 101st Air Refueling Wing has had a long, historic life.
"Over 50 years if I remember correctly," said Eric Grass, master sergeant and a boom operator with Maniacs. "We put ourselves to a high proficiency level so that we can go and do anything that we are asked to do."
"We go all over the world. We are well-known for excellence in every aspect of our career. We are very well known in our air-refueling abilities for a lot of the receiver units out there," Grass said.
Grass trains other future boom operators on a simulator before heading up thousands of feet in the air for real-life missions. One of the goals of the simulator is to cut training costs.
Grass said his team travels worldwide to assist and refuel military aircraft to complete important missions as quickly and effectively as possible.
"Where they are storing cargo or bombs, we are storing fuel so they don't have to land to reconstitute or get more gas and take off again. We can just be up there waiting for them and keep them in the sustained fight and keep our guys safe on the ground or get humanitarian aid to places that need to get it," Grass said.
As these military aircraft start to age, more maintenance is needed.
One of the shops at the hangar is responsible for aircraft maintenance. Maintainers keep and repair the old aircraft up and running or fabricate complex aircraft parts from scratch.
"If parts are not procurable through the normal channels, we come into play, and fabricate the parts otherwise the aircraft would be down," Howes said.
Howes said this is thanks to technological developments that have evolved in the last decade going from legacy machinery to completely automated. Time and accuracy are two of the main benefits of using the latest technology.
"We can get these aircraft back in the air a lot faster than we used to," added Howes.
"Their goal is to keep it safe so that when we go up and fly, we land back here, we call it to code one, but the plane is ready to go for the next mission," said Grass.
"As a machine shop, the 101st air refueling wing has position itself in such a manner that we are extremely capable and we have the ability to manufacture about anything right now," said Jason Howes, master sergeant, and machine shop supervisor.
The maintenance troop repairs worn-out parts and when they break, some of them are even built using a 3D printer.
"All of that allows us to produce a part that 10 years ago we weren't able to do," added Howes.
One of the most important tasks the Maniacs are widely known for is its mid-air refueling.
"We train ourselves to get better and more proficient," Grass said. "We are just here to assist the community and when the world needs us, we are around!"
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