MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --
Approximately 800 Airmen from the 23d Component and Equipment Maintenance Squadrons merged to become the 23d Maintenance Squadron, Air Combat Command’s second largest maintenance squadron, during a re-designation ceremony, Nov. 9, here.
As these Airmen stood in formation behind unfurled guidons, bearing new names, they now abide by a new motto – ‘MXS!... The Biggest!... The Best!’
Reflecting on the inactivated squadron’s renowned pasts, Lt. Col. Neal Van Houten, 23d MXS commander, gave insight on the new squadron’s promising future.
“Regardless of the name change, the professionalism and expertise of each of these squadron’s Airmen is a constant that will remain a foundation of success in the future,” said Van Houten. “The 23d Maintenance Squadron will continue to provide highly capable Airmen, who execute safe and reliable maintenance on aircraft systems, ground equipment and munitions to support the 23d Wing's attack and rescue missions.”
Van Houten praised the maintenance professionals from the squadron’s seven flights, which consists of Armament, Munitions, Aerospace Ground Equipment, Maintenance, Fabrication, Accessories and Propulsion, for their ability to support Moody’s HH-60G Pave Hawk, A-10C Thunderbolt II and HC-130J Combat King II aircraft.
He also applauded the maintainers for overcoming the manning constraints due to the decline in back shop personnel, which warranted the need to merge the squadrons. Van Houten said combatting this was the biggest challenge Moody’s maintenance community has faced since the arrival of the A-10 in 2007 at Moody.
During the past decade, these Airmen surpassed the challenges of the redistribution and reduction of personnel, which according to Van Houten, proved to be invaluable as a command restructure was implemented in 2016 before the merger was activated. He added that the unit’s successful operations under one production office made for an easier transition period that enhanced unit cohesion.
“These units have always worked together closely; in many cases, have depended on each other to accomplish the mission,” said Van Houten. “A unified team always works better than individual parts and, if we continue to nurture this process and remove perceived obstacles, productivity will naturally increase.”
While increasing productivity in maintenance practices is always a top priority, ensuring continuity was also a focal point for Van Houten.
“Ultimately, the merger will provide consistency and synergy across all back shop functions while also falling in line with (Headquarters Air Force) guidance by allowing technical experts to remain in their flights and driving more qualified non-commissioned officers back into direct supervision of Airmen.”
For Tech. Sgt. Justin Lemmon, 23d EMS NCO in charge of munitions line delivery, the ability to have senior leader’s expertise and guidance in the work center is priceless.
“The non-commissioned officer’s role in managing the daily maintenance workload is critical to operations here,” said Lemmon. “The rate at which our unit is tasked demands superior performance across the spectrum. (Combining forces) will allow for one standard across all maintenance functions.
“As a young Airman, I remember having an NCO with high standards showing me the ropes,” Lemmon added. “One of my favorite sayings as I came through the ranks was, ‘with high standards comes high morale.’ I believe this (mantra) will continue to be the case as CMS and EMS becomes the mighty MXS.”
After rendering a salute for the first time as an official 23d MXS maintainer, Airman 1st Class Jordan Vasquez, former 23d CMS aerospace propulsion craftsman, was eager to get back to the work center to maintain serviceable A-10 TF-34 engines as an MXS airman.
“Although I liked the atmosphere that came along with the smaller squadron because it was easier to get to know everyone, the idea of a new command section with more (leadership) to take care of us and a chance to wear a new morale shirt and MXS patch is exciting,” said Vasquez. “I’m ready to get back to the day-to-day operations to experience it all.”
As the two formations of Airmen stood pat in their past squadrons, they departed with smiles from familiar faces as they formed fluidly together as one large unit, ready to make history for their new union built under the re-designation.