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Combat Metals builds on partnership with Kuwait

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kenneth Boyton
  • 386 Air Expeditionary Wing

Even in deployed environments, where more rudimentary tools and equipment can be found, an Airman’s ability to adapt and overcome obstacles is still a highly respected and sought after trait.

Since every machine requires regular maintenance or repairs, the Airmen’s capability to work on aircraft from other countries is integral for all services to continue the mission.

“Our coalition partners sometimes ask us for help when working on or repairing their own aircraft,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Novotney, 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance technician. “It’s not that they don’t know how to do something, we might just have the necessary tools or more experience.”

In September 2020, the 386th EMXS combat metals shop was asked to help make some common repairs to a few helicopters belonging to Kuwaiti forces.

“This door is pretty badly damaged,” Novotney said while pointing to a visibly battered helicopter door placed on a table. “They tried to repair it, but there were a few things they needed our help with.”

He added that even though his shop has a wide array of tools, they still had to improvise in order to start the repairs.

“The door needs its ribs, or support beams, to be heavily repaired,” said Novotney. “We have to replicate the ribs, which have an extreme angle, so we had to remove the most intact rib and create a casting of it.”

To create the casting, Novotney explained that they took a piece of wood, cut it to the approximate shape, and carefully sanded it down until it was as close to being an exact fit as possible.

He added they’ll use the wooden mold to create pieces to repair the ribs, making the door structurally sound.

“Without having a strong skeleton, any weight on the door could force it to break open,” Novotney said. “It’s a small issue that can become a big problem.”

Another helicopter had an issue of its own.

“The exhaust was cracking and they didn’t have anyone available to weld it,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathaniel Lowrey, 386th EMXS aircraft metals technology craftsman.

Lowrey explained that if left unchecked, the crack could split the exhaust grounding the aircraft until a replacement part was purchased. He added that although the issue is fairly normal, fixing this helicopter had a different meaning to him.

“When I weld to fix Marine helicopters back home, it’s so they can train stateside and maybe deploy with it,” Lowrey said. “But this helicopter is going off to do something that is directly related to operations. It’s making an impact right now.”

Since 2003, Kuwait has provided the main staging area for U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and has played a key role in the withdrawal of troops and equipment as time went on.

Kuwait continues to be an important partner in counterterrorism efforts, providing military, diplomatic and intelligence assistance.

While collaboration between U.S. and Kuwaiti forces are far from uncommon, the dedication and resourcefulness of Airmen, such as Novotney and Lowrey, continues to solidify the partnership the countries share.

“It’s important that we continue to strengthen our partnership,” said Colonel Henry H. Triplett III, 386th Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “These Airmen, the combat metals shop and our Wing as a whole, continue to build on that relationship, exponentially enhancing our readiness and forging stability in the region.”