Team Training Section prepares future maintainers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Dillon White
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs Office
Checking voltages on electrical equipment suspended in a 90-foot deep launch facility and riding in cages that creep along its underground walls are tasks that are not taught to every Airman at Malmstrom Air Force Base. 

These skills are mastered by few, and taught by a hand-picked group of maintainers who have excelled in their career field. 

Airmen arriving at Malmstrom from technical school, cross-training from other career fields or attending recurring training all go to one place - the 341st Maintenance Operations Squadron Team Training Section. 

The MTT is responsible for training Airmen to work in coordination with each separate team to maintain weapon system controls, facilities and the system itself. 

Their sections include: the facility maintenance team maintains refrigeration, back-up power and ground water removal equipment; the electromechanical team troubleshoots command and control equipment, from control consoles to security systems and batteries. 

Missile Maintenance Team
MMT teaches roughly 25 Airmen each year how to replace missile components to upgrade existing systems or replace malfunctioning components including downstage rocket motors, propulsion system rocket engines, missile guidance sets and re-entry systems. 

"Pride in doing the job is very important," said Master Sgt. William Paul, 341st MOS NCO in charge of MMT. "Being a missile maintenance team member is extremely difficult and the rewards you get are all intrinsic. It's the pride of accomplishing the most important job around." 

A typical MMT class roster is five Airmen, each assuming specific duties within the team. Two teams are taught at a time at different stages of training, with two-to-three instructors per class. 

Airmen arrive at Malmstrom from technical school with basic knowledge on which instructors build upon. Each MMT member is assigned a position within a five person team. These positions are: a team chief of staff sergeant or above with several years of MMT experience who supervises the team; two Airmen who are in charge of driving the payload transporter and assisting maintenance operations from ground level called top-siders; a "cage technician," who conducts maintenance from a suspended cage that rolls along the inside wall of the launch facility - a tube shaped structure that houses the Minuteman III; and a board technician, who uses a balcony-like platform to assist the cage man. All five Airmen working in concert are capable of removal and reinstallation of weapon system components. 

"The Airmen complete more than 60 days of training, broken into blocks. They begin with familiarization with tools, how to operate hoists and how to follow technical orders," Sergeant Paul said. 

Airmen also learn correct procedures for entering and leaving a launch facility.
"This is critical, because you can't just walk on in. You will get challenged by security forces, and it will be aggressive. Teams spend about a week to a week and a half on security and technical procedures." 

From there, the Airmen learn how to "safe" a missile and carry out maintenance tasks such as replacement of missile guidance sets and even ballistic gas generators that open the launch facility enclosure door. 

Lastly, the Airmen learn seldom-performed tasks such as the proper procedure for entering a launch facility in the event of a mechanical failure in the launch enclosure door. 

Facility Maintenance Team
"We are similar to civil engineers with a security clearance," said Master Sgt. Chris Sanchez, 341st MOS FMT specialist. "We work on a lot of the same things civil engineering does." 

While MMT ensures the weapon system is operating safely, securely and reliably, by replacing missile components, the FMT performs periodic maintenance and repairs on refrigeration systems, back-up power generators, water removal systems and fuel tanks.
The team members must have a wide knowledge base to cover the various types of equipment. In all, they will learn 339 tasks in just four months. 

Refrigeration systems maintained by FMT play a critical role in cooling electronic equipment used in the command and control of the weapon system, from the REACT console manned by missileers in the launch control center to equipment in the launch facility itself that monitors the missile. 

To keep the electrical systems high and dry, sump pumps maintained by FMT perform the important task of removing intrusive ground water from launch facilities. Airmen are also trained to perform periodic maintenance which includes tasks such as replacing oil and air filters on diesel power generators used for back-up power when commercial power is lost. 

"We teach the Airmen to do the job right and not to cut corners," Sergeant Sanchez said. "In our job, there are a lot of ways to reach the same outcome, but not following the book leads to problems." 

FMT members require integrity and experience to accomplish their mission efficiently and properly because FMT members use both Civil Engineer Manuals, which are similar to owner's manuals, and technical orders, Sergeant Sanchez said. 

"We have to teach them the value of integrity because they are part of a two-man team that operates with no one watching them," he said. "Experience comes into play because one technician with less experience can take days to solve a problem when another technician can solve the same problem in a half hour. That's because for every problem there could be 35 causes and unless you have run into the same problem 15 times, you wouldn't know which of those two possibilities were the most likely." 

Electromechanical Team
The third piece of MMT is the electromechanical training section, which teaches Airmen to troubleshoot electronic and wiring problems in command and control of the weapon system. This encompasses internal power of both LCCs and LFs provided by batteries and motor generators which convert the battery power to alternating current required by the electronic equipment. 

Removing and reinstalling the 1,450 pound batteries is also an EMT core task accomplished by three Airmen, hydraulic lifting equipment and a crane. 

The EMT members also repair security systems that monitor LFs for intrusion. 

"Bringing a sortie back on alert is our main focus," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher McCabe, NCO in charge of EMT training. "We don't see planes in the air after fixing an engine, that's for the flight crews. If a sortie goes back on alert, we're happy we did our job." 

The EMT members also load launch codes into the weapon system after MMT replaces certain Minuteman III components.
When Airmen graduate from team training, they will be assigned to the 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron. The Airmen will someday return to learn different jobs or attend recurring training and may someday, become instructors themselves.