SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 was named by the Department of Defense the winner of the 2012 Phoenix Award Nov. 15, at the 2012 DoD Maintenance Symposium and Exhibition in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Phoenix Award honors military maintenance organizations for outstanding performance. HSM 77 was chosen from active and reserve organizations performing unit or field-level maintenance and singled out as the best of the best.
Excellence is a word that could describe the practices performed each day by the dozens of maintainers, who handle the duty and responsibility of ensuring the proper performance of each aircraft every day.
"The award that we won was based on the maintenance practices we accomplished during the year, obviously we met all operational tasking we were given, our aircraft were always ready for tasking," said Aviation Electrician's Mate 1st Class Robert Padilla, HSM-77 Sailor of the Year. "It's not that we do anything differently than anyone else up and down the wing, I think it's just that we have a group of Sailors who like to work together collectively to achieve a common goal."
In fiscal year 2011, HSM-77 flew 7,168 mishap-free flight hours between the 11 aircraft at the squadron. The maintenance crew completed more than 38,000 work orders, while performing 100,800 hours of maintenance, supporting 7,168 hours of mishap-free flight hours, and executing 2,344 sorties with a 97 percent completion rate, all while achieving 84 percent mission capable and 78 percent full mission capable rates.
Lt. Cmdr. Aric Edmondson, HSM-77 maintenance officer, said helicopters are pretty high maintenance; every 175 flight hours the maintenance crew breaks it down to some phase maintenance, which consists of different components being taken apart, inspected, and reassembled.
"Just to turn an aircraft around from one day's flight schedule, it takes about 10 maintenance man-hours and that's assuming nothing is wrong with the aircraft," said Edmondson.
The crew performs their daily checks by using a deck of cards containing about 250 items that the maintainers go through for each area of responsibility for the aircraft.
During this meticulous task, they're opening all the panels, checking all the fluids, looking at all of the wiring harnesses, looking for any foreign object debris (FOD), gouges in the tires, discrepancies with the rotors, and performing a top-to-bottom inspection.
"A lot people think all we do is turn wrenches, but they don't see the big picture of the tasking we have to complete," said Padilla. "I know for myself, when we see an aircraft lift off the deck and complete its mission, it's gratifying to know that the maintenance we performed allowed the aircraft to fly safely."
Squadrons like HSM-77 have the important mission of providing anti-surface warfare and anti-submarine warfare for the fleet, often providing support for carrier air wings.
"We're in the business of putting aircraft up and accomplishing the mission," said Edmondson. "Anything as simple as leaving a screw or a tool in the aircraft, or not doing the maintenance properly, could result in the aircraft not coming back."
According to Edmondson, anyone who gets in the aircraft, whether it's the aircrew or passengers, their life depends on it the next day.
"It's an honor to be distinguished not only against our air wing, but against the entire Navy, so it's pretty impressive and it's a testament to what these guys do every day," he said.
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