An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Malmstrom Helicopter Squadron tests 24-hour operations

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Dillon White
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
Flight and maintenance crews have begun testing 24-hour operations at the 40th Helicopter Squadron here to determine its viability and establish best practices for decreasing airborne response times.

The testing is slated to span nine months, with 40th HS crews conducting the first five months of testing. The 40th's sister squadrons in Air Force Global Strike Command at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyo., will join the testing to complete the second phase of four months.

Leadership will evaluate "aircrew, aircraft and [Tactical Response Force] responsiveness; manning requirements; safety factors and implications; crew rest, fatigue, morale and physiological factors; scheduling, currency and proficiency implications; and basic overall tactical effectiveness," said Lt. Col. Carl Mullen, 40th HS director of operations. "At the end of each phase, the data will be evaluated to see what, if any, modifications need to be made and how to proceed."

A crew of five is on alert and an additional crew is postured to take over. In all, 10 crewmembers are required to conduct operations in regular off-duty time. Crew members include a pilot, co-pilot, two flight engineers and a supervisor of flying.

"We also have a maintenance team available 24/7 to ensure we have a good aircraft and an aircraft-flight-equipment team who has to work late hours to ensure our flight gear is working properly," Colonel Mullen said.

1st Lt. Jay Murnyack, 40th HS UH-1N Huey Iroquois pilot and plans officer, said manning is the largest challenge in his opinion.

"It's hard work for everyone," he said, referring to his role as the schedule planner and the crew members who sacrifice time off to facilitate the increased operational hours. "Crew rest is 12 hours, so the day a crew goes on alert, they have 12 hours prior to the evening where they don't come into the squadron. They also have 12 hours after their alert and generally come into the squadron the following day."

The Lieutenant said Airmen at the 40th are rotating the 24-hour alert responsibilities so that people can have time off, since the alert members spend their "weekends" in the alert facility, a fire-department like living area with four rooms, a kitchenette, bathroom, exercise room and day room. The on-alert crews sleep at the alert facility, housed in the squadron's maintenance building and can jump out of their racks at a moment's notice then scramble to a flight-ready helicopter postured by the maintenance crews.

"The change was pretty transparent to us," said Stacy Vernon, from the 40th HS maintenance operations center. "We hired three additional people last April and we work days, swings and mid shifts."

Mr. Vernon and his maintenance crew keep an alert helicopter poised 24-hours a day and in inclement weather, it is staged inside a hangar so it is ready to be pulled outside and be manned immediately.

The crews aren't for want of work, Mr. Vernon said that with scheduled and unscheduled maintenance, they stay busy around the clock.