MARCH 10, 2016, ARABIAN GULF (NNS) – An integral part for a UH-1Y Huey needs to be replaced; instead it sits in an unopened box. The work order was never processed and the Huey is grounded.
The engine of an MV-22 Osprey must be pulled out for maintenance; instead it sits in the hangar bay, nothing more than a giant paperweight.
An AV-8B Harrier sits on the flight deck, unused and useless, awaiting a repaired circuit card.
An MH-60S Sea Hawk is prepared for take off, but flight quarters was suspended because there are no working P25 flight deck fire trucks.
The aircraft, and aircraft support equipment aboard USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) require constant maintenance to perform at a high level, and without the Sailors and Marines of the Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Department (AIMD), all of the previous scenarios would be a reality and flight operations would be non-existent.
AIMD is made up of four divisions, IM-1, IM-2, IM-3 and IM-4, and is one of the few departments on board Kearsarge where “blue/green” integration is front and center. In AIMD, Sailors and Marines with the same specialties work alongside one another.
Each of the four divisions has its own area of expertise. IM-1 handles production control, while IM-2 works on aircraft engines and structures, as well as life saving equipment. IM-3 mainly deals with electrical equipment on aircraft, and IM-4 is responsible for aircraft support equipment.
“The Marines are integrated in every work center,” said Chief Aviation Electrician’s Mate Timothy Pendley, leading chief petty officer of IM-3.
Pendley said the ratio of blue to green personnel in the department is almost evenly split in half.
“We have staff sergeants in the mix with the first classes to run things,” said Pendley. “It’s been really great having the Marines on board.”
“We mesh well with the Marines; when they come on board, they blend right into the Kearsarge family” said Master Chief Aircraft Maintenanceman Kevin Shepherd, department leading chief petty officer. “We work well with the ACE [Air Combat Element], so we try to support them the best we can with anything that they need.”
With the Sailors and Marines working alongside within the divisions, it allows the department to accomplish more tasks.
“Having Sailors and Marines with so many different specialties gives us a broad scope of what we can repair,” said Shepherd.
According to Shepherd, the technical knowledge in AIMD covers a wide spectrum.
“With the different divisions communicating with each other on a daily basis, we’re only limited in what we can fix by the equipment we have,” said Shepherd.
Shepherd said everything AIMD does begins with production control, which is handled by the IM-1 division.
“It’s the central hub of everything; everything flows through production control,” said Shepherd.
IM-1 performs the majority of the administrative work for the department, and is where work orders originate. The work orders are then distributed to other divisions based on what type of gear or work needs to be completed.
Shepherd said all the divisions work cohesively to accomplish every task.
IM-2 is responsible for all engine and structural work on board that moves equipment, such as engines and transmissions, inside the hangar bay. Multiple workcenters, consisting of AMs (Aviation Structural Mechanics), ADs (Aviation Machinist’s Mates) and PRs (Aircrew Survival Equipmentmen), along with their Marine equivalents, are grouped into IM-2.
“In IM-2 we have three workcenters known as Power Plants, Airframes and Paraloft,” said Staff Sgt. John Jakubowske.
According to Jakubowske, the Power Plant workcenter works on all the engines and the dynamic components of the aircraft on board, as well as oil testing to make sure the oil inside the engines is not contaminated.”
The Airframe workcenter handles the structure and the hydraulic systems of the aircraft; tires and wheels; aeronautical and ground support welding; and non-destructive inspections.
The Paraloft workcenter is in charge of survival equipment, such as life rafts and life preservers, designed for aircrew support, and is staffed by PRs, both Sailors and Marines.
“We are in charge of Aviation life support systems,” said Aircrew Survival Equipmentman 1st Class Ismael Rodriguez. “We fix any survival equipment that would help the aircrew or pilots survive for a couple of days if they had to eject from the aircraft.”
The aircraft aboard Kearsarge contain countless mechanical and electrical systems, to include the stabilizers, navigation and ordnance handling equipment that IM-3 division maintains.
“IM-3 takes care of anything to do with ordnance handling equipment, aircraft avionics components, micro-miniature repair and calibration,” said Pendley. “We repair a wide range of aircraft components with seven work centers, including the gun shop for ordnance support equipment; the calibration lab for squadron and shipboard assets; the battery shop for aircraft and Humvee batteries; and the 2M [Micro-miniature repair] shop.”
The 2M workcenter fixes circuit cards that the pilots need to continue missions. But, even with all the aircraft in working condition, flight operations would not be possible without the aircraft support equipment in the hangar bay and on the flight deck.
“IM-4 is responsible for all the forklifts, tow tractors, tow bars, and anything else that relates to the support of the aircraft on the ship,” said Shepherd. “They work on the P25s [emergency fire trucks] and the crash and salvage crane to keep them operational for Air Department. Without that equipment, the flight schedule would be hampered.”
Shepherd said that because the department covers such a broad spectrum, AIMD can and will support any ship or squadron within their proximity.
“If a command needs assistance, they will ship an item to us, then we’ll calibrate it and ship it back,” said Shepherd.
Without the technical knowledge and support of the Sailors and Marines of AIMD, Kearsarge would not be able to fulfill its mission and daily flight operations would come to a halt. It’s no wonder that the folks in IM-4 like to say ‘No air support without ground support.’