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Propulsion Airman keeps bombs, mindset on target

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s 9th Aircraft Maintenance Unit work hard to ensure each B-1B Lancer engine can operate at its 30,000 plus pounds of potential thrust during missions.

While each 9th AMU Airman does their part to ensure jets get off the ground, Airman 1st Class Shelby Ries, 379th EAMXS B-1B aerospace propulsion journeyman, keeps bombs dropping as well as anyone.

“[Ries] is one of the newest Airmen that we have but she performs at a level far above her rank and the expectations that have been set for her,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Blackmon, 379th EAMXS B-1B Lancer propulsion craftsman. “Airman Ries is always my go-to. Anything I’m not thinking of or something I might miss, she’s always there with it even without me having to tell her. She listens to everything I’ve taught her and it makes it really easy for us to do our job.”

Despite this being her first deployment, Ries was selected by her chain of command at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, to deploy ahead of her unit as part of the Advanced Echelon (ADVON) team to ensure everything was prepared for the 9th AMU’s arrival at Al Udeid. During her time here, Reis has led two engine changes, completed more than 90 maintenance actions, and enabled 56 B-1B sorties.

Ries said being a propulsion Airman requires an inner toughness and a positive mindset.

“Strong will is the number one thing to have as an Airman in propulsion,” said Ries. “You have to be willing to rack your knuckles a couple times, dig deep and find strength where you didn’t know you had it hidden. You have to have a positive attitude even about getting covered in hydro and oil and fuel and being happy about it.”

Teamwork is also a requirement, especially when fatigue begins to set in, according to Ries.

“Despite there being a human wall of exhaustion I don’t think there’s an exhaustion for your heart and for your drive,” she said. “It’s more important that you’re picking up your teammates and dragging them down the line with you when they’re tired. [Try] to not show that you might want to lay down and take a five minute nap in the middle of the flightline some days. It’s OK to be tired and use that as strength to keep pushing through for the next assignment.”

Despite the heavy workloads and high expectations, Ries said she embraces her role in Al Udeid’s mission and the personal satisfaction it brings.

“It makes you feel proud at the end of the day knowing that you get to do something that a lot of people don’t get the chance or opportunity to see or do,” said Ries. “It gives you a lot of pride at the end of the day. You can go to bed knowing that you did something bigger than yourself.”