Aviation Branch Maintenance Officer Update:
Our commanders must understand that maintenance is training and it requires the commitment of command teams from platoon up to brigade level. This is especially critical now as we transition from our wartime model to reduced levels of contractor maintenance support.
To illustrate “A WAY” to tackle this type of readiness and bank time-building problem set, this article offers a process that can be used to execute a structured collective training event using phase maintenance as the battle task.
There are no published Army phase completion time standards. Therefore, each unit has the opportunity to establish measures of success/effectiveness. To do this, it is important to develop a comprehensive PLAN for each phase with the appropriate personnel, materiel, and time resources. A brigade level example is to have each unit/task force use the P4T3 methodology and develop a phase team by MOS and establish a standard for how long each type of phase should take. The brigade commander vets and approves team composition and time standards; task force (TF) commanders enforce the standard. Most importantly, TF commanders allocate resources to achieve the time standard.
The P4T3 Concept
To help our young NCOs plan and execute phase maintenance, we must support and train them on our doctrine and basic maintenance practices derived out of Training Circular (TC) 3-04-7, Army Aviation Maintenance. What must be emphasized is the P4T3 concept described under Aviation Maintenance Planning and Execution: P4 – Problem, People, Parts, and Plan; and T3 – Time, Tools, and Training (see box). This concept should be molded to fit unit long range training plans or OPTEMPO environment. Treating phase maintenance as a battle task helps ensure that the phase team is available for the phase as scheduled.
In order to let the P4T3 process work, each unit must add specifics as needed dependent on situation, environment, and working conditions. Emphasizing pride of ownership will also make the process more effective. The crewchief must accompany the aircraft into phase and support the phase team to get it done on time and also to give the aircraft the attention it has been lacking between phases. It’s about taking care of as many diagonal entries as possible while the aircraft is disassembled. Platoon leader and company commander involvement in this aspect is critical to assure understanding from the line company leadership level as well.
Critical personnel who must stay on the phase at all times are the primary technical inspector (TI) and a secondary to assure continuity and training for each phase. The assigned TI must be on site for the duration of the phase through final test flight and log book recon. The TI and the maintenance test pilot (MTP) are the final people to go over the books before the aircraft is released to the flight company for missions.
Identifying the test pilot by name ensures they are present and prepared for maintenance operational checks and test flights (MOC/MTF). Additionally, the MTP will perform a 100% inspection of the entire aircraft and phase book prior to the aircraft being fully assembled. This helps the phase team rectify any issues that may need additional attention. This is also a great training opportunity for a young MTP when guided by a maintenance examiner (ME) on their first post-phase test flight.
A critical planning task requires the phase team, test pilot, and crewchief to review DA Forms 2408-18s to identify all inspections required through the next phase, and accomplish as many as possible while the aircraft is disassembled during the phase. On the phase tracking matrix, each day must be broken down to list all tasks that must be completed to keep the phase on its timeline. At the end of each day, the team leader briefs the aviation maintenance officer (AMO) on the progress of the phase. The AMO now has a snapshot of how to use other resources to help the team.
Involvement of the AMO helps build the team concept and provides support to the NCO so he can accomplish his battle task and keep everyone on track to success. A critical step for the TI and phase team leader is to assure that all publications required are on hand and verified up to date. In addition, each team member must review and initial a familiarization chart affirming their review of the publications. The phase team leader and TI will also ensure each new team member has read through his/her section to familiarize the team member with all inspections and tasks required.
Resourcing & Scheduling
One aspect that ties into the tools category is transportation. The team leader must ensure he has properly licensed Soldiers and required serviceable equipment available, such as a tug to tow aircraft, a SCAMP to use as a lifting device, and any other vehicle or trailer to move parts to back shops or turn-in as required. Examples of phase team compositions for each aircraft type are presented here as a guide. The yellow highlight in Figures 1 & 2 depicts phase team members who stay on the phase 100% of the time. The rest of the team is identified by name so they understand that anytime the phase aircraft requires their specialty, it is their priority of work (aside from an actual DART (Downed Aircraft Recovery Team) mission in combat).
To accommodate physical training, lunch, and family time, both figures depict 6 hour work day timelines to complete each phase to include MTF. It is important to note that 24 hour operations for UH-60 phases have not proven to yield any better efficiency. One team working on a phase minimizes confusion that is, teams do not have to hand over tasks in progress.
For CH-47s, however, Figure 2 depicts 24 hour operations with two teams: There are so many different sections that each element can work on a different aircraft section the entire length of the phase until completion. All time standards used are based on garrison environments. By using this method, when in combat, a unit can expect to increase its capability two-fold as a result of concentrated time availability and no other garrison-type requirements/taskings.
Effective training of team members and command support for required resources are critical. Although every aircraft will have a unique set of issues, trained phase teams should be able to meet the timelines (barring major extenuating issues). When issues arise, challenge the teams to work issues concurrently as opposed to sequentially. Or, establish an unscheduled team to tackle major issues if required. An example of that would be if a main transmission has to be changed.
Commander’s guidance and leadership is critical to the P4T3 construct’s success. Each phase is an opportunity to develop junior leaders. One key element of a commander’s guidance is that phase team members will not come off the phase for other taskings without the battalion commander’s approval. This guidance gives the phase team leader the confidence that his chain of command at the battalion level sees this task as extremely important and relevant to the mission success of the unit.
There is no secret formula to success, but there are different levels of success which are well within our grasp. It is critical that commanders explain how each phase contributes to the fight on the ground when in combat and to training in garrison. Soldiers want to know how they contribute to the success of the unit and the broader mission set as well. The hard work of our young maintainers makes this possible and they should be proud of their phase team’s efforts.
Completing a phase is challenging and it can be overwhelming for a junior NCO who is not properly trained and supported. Leader development during phases is worth the time for all personnel involved; it is an investment in the future maintenance leaders of our branch. By taking a planned and organized approach, any unit can develop organized NCO leaders, junior officers, and the organization as a whole. And they will build bank time, and meet mission requirements as well – all of which equates to success.
Problem: Phase Inspection to maintain phase flow, increase bank time, and train leaders and Soldiers on this battle task.
People: Identify team by name & ensure the right people are in the right positions to train; include back shops & tech supply personnel. Also depict by each individual how many times they’ve worked that section. This is to establish Master and Apprentice training relationships during the conduct of the phase.
Parts: This is affirmation by the phase team leader that he/she has set eyes on every part needed to include parts due TBO replacement or known issues for that aircraft and trend analysis of parts that although not listed within the phase inspection checklist always get replaced during phase. Experience efficiencies can be gained here through continuous training and exposure to structured phase maintenance iterations.
Plan: Start with phases being tracked on the unit’s long range training calendar. In a garrison environment, competing requirements like marksmanship, gunnery, staff duty, leave, etc; must be planned to allocate personnel and time appropriately. Furthermore, phase briefs and AARs need to be chaired at the battalion level which will assure lower level leadership involvement.
Time: This plan must list specific work call start times, lunch time, and end of shift times. For the flight company, it must list their Responsibilities before phase induction, to include engine flushes, pre-phase MTF, removal of flyaway gear, ASE gear, and those tasks the company must complete before induction and during the phase through MTF.
Tools: This is an affirmation that the team has inventoried and verified all tools and test sets required are on hand, serviceable, and calibrated to last throughout the entire phase inspection.
Training: Emphasis here is on the Master and Apprentice concept. This also helps NCOs keep track of experience in each section to move Soldiers as needed for further training and expand their knowledge base. Keeping track of experience on individual Soldier’s training folders will assist in talent management and identifying future phase team leaders as well as validate new maintainers.
CW5 Leonte I. Cardona is the Aviation Branch Maintenance Officer, U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Life Cycle Management Command at Redstone Arsenal, AL. He has over 31 years of aviation maintenance experience as maintainer, phase team leader, production/quality control NCO/OIC, test pilot and test pilot examiner.