22 March 2006

Work, people, and shift wars

Now I work as a maintainer on some pretty old aircraft. The last one built left the factory back in the late '70's. Some of the systems we have in it date from the start of the Vietnam war. There also in the life of these birds been enough mods that the maintenance manuals that all my instructors in school taught me were the bibles on how to fix all manner of aviaton electronics end up contradicting themselves. One publication shows wires going one way and in another for different mod show those same wires being dyked off and capped. So for those really hard gripes that are written up by the aircrew.
On top of that I work the day shift. The day shift is were 90% of the flight time for a squadron is done. All of day shift's sweat, blood, tears and engery is to putting aircraft up into the air. Even if we have to push the dang thing down the taxi way to get enough air over the wings for flying. Around the flight sked we try and knock out out the other things on our maintenance work load. I had an seasoned salty AT1 tell me once that if you can keep your work load report under two printed pages that is a good thing. Also since we are on the day shift that is when 100% of the khaki's are walking around and doing things, so there is more time eaten up by requests such as sending two bodies to help move item X from one side of the barn to the other, or meeting in the ready room about incident Y.
So today at shift change a full blown shift war broke out in my workcenter between the two shifts. The night shift supervisor an AT2 that has been in less time then I have came in and jumped on my shift for not accomplishing anything on our workload for the day. I tried to calmly explain to him all the events that went down for the day. Namely that we have 2 up aircraft (out of 3 total), that our maintenance control couldn't make concessions for us to bring a bird inside the barn for us to fix a couple thing since the plan was 2 bird go for morning launch, land at lunch gas/crew switch and then launch for the afternoon shift. Upon which he said that it was bull that his shift has to do everything. At the same time that statement came out of his mouth my division chief came in. This night shift sup went into a long, spittle and hate filled screech about how long his shift works and they are here from 1500 to 2330 or if he is really unlucky 0300 in the morning. I tried to explain what was going on upon which my chief grab me, the night sup, and our LPO who just happen to walk back into the shop while this screech was going down. My chief then explained everyone needs to kiss and make up or else! The night sup started to say something about how screwed up me and my shift was and the chief said, something along the lines of ; "I don't get a rats ass if your here at shift change in the morning at 0600. Congratulations, on joining the Navy the ultimate in despotic rule. If the you want to I will mandate that you or the other second on your shift comes in to give a verbal pass down every morning and stay until morning maintenance meeting is concluded."
That statement lead the the night shift sup to shut up, cause he really didn't want to see his time with his kids in the morning messed with. I know that it is still simmering just below the surface. I have a pretty good feeling what his problem is, the first off is that he is starting to get short timers diease since he is getting ready to rotate to another command in about 2 months. On top of that a couple of more seasoned seconds and firsts that he learned leadership from were really poor leaders. Those guys use to go home and leave messages about calling them if anything went wrong or would just sit in the shop put direction out about jobs that needed to be done all while they sat around and either played on the internet or played cards with other shop shift sups.
I tried to change that a little bit when I was intitally placed on nights and I failed. My own leadership skills weren't enough to combat the rut and ingrained attitudes that the whole night shift has. All those guys on that shift have great maintenance skills, but they don't want to do anything unless the maintenance sup is yelling at them. It induced so much stress on my part that I got physically sick for about a week and a half. I know that some people that read this will say "why didnt you just kick them in the ass", it would of accomplished nothing since at the time I took over we had a first class petty officer that was running my shop who had no spine and didnt' want to make enemies of the people working under him. So I just surrendered to that and just worried about trying to make sure that my job was done and that my skills were being improved on and finally I was training some of the new check-ins into not becoming like thier older workers.
Oh well, It will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of days and see how far this shift war goes.

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