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The best beat a bad situation

120th Operations Support Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Larry Gardner stands with the 120th Airlift Wing’s Aircrew Flight Equipment shop. The AFE shop won AFE shop of the year for 2015 beating out 84 other units. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lindsey Soulsby/Released)

120th Operations Support Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Larry Gardner stands with the 120th Airlift Wing’s Aircrew Flight Equipment shop. The AFE shop won AFE shop of the year for 2015 beating out 84 other units. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lindsey Soulsby/Released)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. -- The 120th Aircrew Flight Equipment shop was not the same shop in 2015. They used resiliency to overcome challenges that led them to be the Aircrew Flight Equipment Shop of the Year for 2015. Passion for the job, hard work and knowing each other aided the AFE shop to beat out 84 other units for this award.

The shop was undermanned and relocated due to a renovation. They were also inspected several times during an ongoing aircraft mission conversion. These challenges would have sent any shop into a tizzy.

AFE Superintendent Senior Master Sgt. Andrew English summed up 2015 with an analogy that the shop was like a Christmas snow globe and someone came and shook it up.

Fired by a passion to get the job done, English paved the way for the AFE shop to change the mindset.

"You wear this (tugging on his uniform), you're an adult and you know what's expected," English said. "You raised your hand and joined this unit, you get a paycheck deposited into your account every couple of weeks. Now you have to bring your side of the bargain and come here and do your job."

Leading with passion, the AFE shop still needed qualified professionals. 120th Operations Support Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Larry Gardner was instrumental in hiring two fully trained AFE specialists.

"It looked like a deployed location. They had a lot more equipment than what I was used to and not necessarily the manning that I thought would come with it," said AFE Craftsman Tech. Sgt. Jacklyn Sugiyama who relocated from Tinker Air Force Base.

The C-130 Hercules requires 221 pieces of AFE. Despite budget cuts, the section coordinated with other units and worked hard to ensure no sorties were missed due to AFE in 2015.

"When we brought in trained people the current members of the shop saw their work ethic and it changed the whole environment," English said. "It was crazy to see. It was infectious. Sergeant Sugiyama was one of those people that changed people's attitude and lead by example without saying a word."

Due to the conversion from the F-15 Eagles to the C-130 Hercules the AFE section increased their workload from supporting 34 to 130 aircrew members.                                  

Each aircrew member required three different trainings by the AFE members. The shop was often tasked without notice to get a flight crew member on an aircraft the next day.

"When I look back, I don't know how we did it," English said.

Having the knowledge of his personnel, Gardner led them in the direction to be the best AFE shop in the nation.

"He was involved, constantly-the epitome of a commander," English said. "He's paying attention, he's very involved, knows everybody's name and everybody's story. He isn't just a figurehead."

The AFE shop wasn't always the top AFE shop in the Air National Guard. When personally asked how they received the honor, "we were just doing our job," English said.

The foundation has been laid, the standard has been set and the 120th Aircrew Flight Equipment members will continue leading the way with their dedication and resiliency into another year.
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