Behind the wings

Petty Officer 2nd Class Suzanne Sanchez, a food specialist with Coast Guard Air Station Miami, prepares food for the air station’s change of command ceremony in Miami, July 1, 2014. The South Dennis, Mass., native prepares meals and serves, on average of 100, civilian and Coast Guard personnel on a daily basis. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney)

Petty Officer 2nd Class Suzanne Sanchez, a food specialist with Coast Guard Air Station Miami, prepares meals and serves, on average of 100, civilian and Coast Guard personnel on a daily basis. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney)

by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney

MIAMI – From the movies on the big screen to the 6 o’clock news, Coast Guard aircrews are often seen rescuing people from deadly storms or enforcing maritime laws designed to protect the American public. An essential part of accomplishing the Coast Guard mission rests in the abilities of aircrews devoted to getting the job done safely and efficiently. The wings they wear over their heart symbolizes months and years of specialized training in airborne operations.

But before crews can take off to save a family of stranded boaters or interdict drug or human traffickers, they require the support from the men and women on the ground to help get them in the air. From ordering specific high-tech pieces of air frame equipment to maintaining the multimillion dollar facility that houses 11 aircraft, the boots that stay on the ground are the ones that ensure the air craft can take off.

Behind every aircrew are Coast Guardsmen who work behind the scenes to make the Coast Guard’s air mission successful.

The pieces of the puzzle that make an aircraft are subject to extensive wear and tear through the hours of flight time and maintenance. Each one of those pieces are necessary to complete the puzzle that serves as the workhorse of the aviation community. When one of those pieces needs to be replaced, supply technicians like Petty Officer 1st Class Hugo R. Cabrera, stationed at Air Station Miami, are at the ready to fulfill a request to acquire that very specific piece in a timely manner. An aircraft can’t fly without all of it’s pieces, and the longer a piece is missing, the longer the aircraft is omitted from the mission that requires it.

“We work with the Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to make sure they have all the essential aircraft parts available when needed,” said Cabrera.

Petty Officer 1st Class Hugo Cabrera inspects a packing slip for an aircraft wheel at Coast Guard Air Station Miami, July 1, 2014. The supply technicians at the air station perform quarterly inspections to maintain their 1,200 piece inventory. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney)

Petty Officer 1st Class Hugo Cabrera inspects a packing slip for an aircraft wheel at Coast Guard Air Station Miami, July 1, 2014. The supply technicians at the air station perform quarterly inspections to maintain their 1,200 piece inventory. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Mark Barney)

Parts are important in maintaining the ability to respond to last second repairs and maintenance. Part of keeping the machine running requires foresight in maintaining an inventory comprised of over one thousand pieces.

When a Coast Guard aircraft fuel tank needs fuel, airmen refuel with Jet-A fuel to keep the planes in the air. When the personnel on base are running on fumes, they refuel at the station’s galley where food specialists prepare and serve meals.

“We feed about 100 people on average per day,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Suzanne M. Sanchez, a food specialist stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Miami. “On steak Thursdays, we feed about 200 people.”

Although the Air Station’s mission revolves around its aircrews and aircraft, the airmen inside the aircraft understand that everyone at the unit plays a part and doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Everyone has a role to play,” said Lt. Daniel J. Blaich, an MH-65 helicopter pilot with Coast Guard Air Station Miami. “They provide us the tools to complete our job, they are absolutely essential to the mission.”

Behind every spinning rotor blade and every takeoff from the ground, there are hundreds of people who work long hours to get the aircrew and their aircraft to that point. Their faces aren’t seen on the front page of the local newspaper or their actions aren’t getting screen time on blockbuster films; but they’re there; working behind the scenes. Behind the wings.

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