Keeping ‘Em Flying:

The weather at Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan, can be quite inhospitable during winter months, but Air Force maintainers brave the temperature extremes and snow and ice storms on a moment’s notice to keep KC-135 tankers and C-17s transports flying from there to support operations in Afghanistan. “It can get really miserable and the cold slows you down,” says A1C Raymond Kittle, a KC-135 crew chief. “It takes a lot more time to do things in negative temperatures—a one hour task easily turns into two hours.” Temperature highs at the base average just 32 degrees Fahrenheit in January; the average low temperature is 16 degrees Fahrenheit. But often the temperatures dip well below zero, with minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit wind chill, recorded on Dec. 29, 2007. Maintainers use snow removal and de-icing and anti-icing equipment and old-fashioned elbow grease and back muscles to keep the aircraft mission ready, without the luxury of large aircraft hangars for protection from the elements. Despite the challenges, “when you see that jet take off because of everybody’s efforts, you’re really happy and know you’ve made a difference,” says Kittle. (USAF report by SMSgt. Stefan Alford)