Malmstrom maintenance group named best in Defense Department

The 341st Maintenance Group at Malmstrom Air Force Base has been named the best field-level maintenance unit throughout the Department of Defense.

It’s the first time an intercontinental ballistic missile maintenance group has won the DoD Phoenix Award for Maintenance Excellence, according to Col. David Miller, commander of the Malmstrom maintenance group.

“I’m incredibly proud of the airmen,” Miller said.

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The award process begins with a document package that in this case measures the group’s efficiencies and whether they’re maximizing resources, Miller said. 

“We manage a very old weapon system,” he said. “But it’s still a formidable weapon system.”

But they won’t be resting and basking in their win for too long.

“We recognize that even though we’re at the top of our game right now, we can still continue to improve,” Miller said. “We’ll keep looking for ways to do that”

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Staff Sgt. Aaron Hayworth and Staff Sgt. Catherine Rafanello are both quality assurance evaluators with the maintenance group.

Hayworth works with munitions maintenance teams, both nuclear and conventional, and said he’s “super proud” to be part of the winning team.

“Because of the group, we’re able to have the most reliable nuclear deterrent in the world,” he said. “We are incredibly proud to have been able to be recognized at such a high level”

One of the major portions of the award package for the 341st MXG, Hayworth said, was their plans and scheduling section that has allowed the group better time management in the field and increased effectiveness.

Rafanello works in electromechanical maintenance and having previously been one of those teams in the field, she knows how much work is involved. There are times when the maintenance teams have to spent the night in the field and they stay on site until the job is done. Some is routine scheduled maintenance, but other airmen are always on standby in case something breaks or needs immediate attention.

“Every single person in this group definitely had a part in this,” Rafanello said. “The group is a well oiled machine.”

It’s easy to sometimes feel like a small cog in that big machine, but Rafanello said the award highlights the importance of every airman in the group and their role in the bigger picture of nuclear deterrence, especially for the newer or younger airmen in the maintenance group.

The Phoenix Award recipient is selected as the single best unit out of six Secretary of Defense Field-Level Maintenance Award winners.

In fiscal year 2016, the 341st Maintenance Group led three major modernization efforts at their facilities, including a $6 million upgrade to the re-entry system/re-entry vehicle maintenance facility, a $14.6 million upgrade to the intercontinental ballistic missile maintenance facility, and a $20 million upgrade to their training facilities, according to the Air Force.

In the DoD release on the award, “the group’s efforts propelled them to the top of many of Air Force Global Strike Command’s combat metrics, including best launch control center fully mission capable rate, best scheduling effectiveness rate, best minimum essential equipment levels rate and best transporter erector service rate. The group also reduced its overdue preventive maintenance inspections to the lowest level in command.”