AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
Senior Airman Dale Riches Jr. has been around the block when it comes to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. This is his twelfth deployment as a member of an aircraft maintenance squadron since joining the Air Force in 2002, and he’s been with the RC-135 Rivet Joint since 2006.
He works in electronic warfare systems for the aircraft as part of the 379th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, which after citing many technical instructions and giving several examples, was simplified for the rather befuddled interviewer as working in technologies on the aircraft that involve data transfer.
There aren’t many in the career field for the Rivet Joint more experienced than Riches. His duty is to maintain mission equipment on the aircraft when it returns to the ground – what goes up must work, and what comes down not working must be made to work.
“The system and its technology, because of what the platform is able to do, has had continuous updates over the years,” he said. “For radio equipment on the aircraft, the on-board sensor suite must be fine-tuned and pretty precise. All of our equipment is calibrated, so we can collect intelligence, analyze it and disseminate it in real-time. We can contact troops on the ground and help them get their mission done by passing along the information they need.”
It is no surprise that the continuous evolution of communication technologies also requires the aircraft’s systems be updated as well. That’s Riches’ favorite part of the job.
“I have to relearn everything every couple of years,” he confirmed. “It’s not like I ever get bored with the aircraft. There’s always something new.”
And as he uses the continuous knowledge he has gained from working with the aircraft over the years, he makes sure the Airmen around him are also enabled with that knowledge.
“It’s important to trust, and there’s a proverb that goes ‘trust but verify’” he said. “I try to make sure not to micromanage anybody – I trust another individual to the job, but I could ask them to run through a write up with me after they’ve done the work before I sign off on it.”
His time with the aircraft is coming to a close, which is why on his last deployment he hopes to leave the Airmen he works alongside with a mission-oriented mindset.
“I want to make sure my shop is adequately prepared,” he said. “When the knowledge from someone with 18 years of experience goes away, it can result in things slipping through the cracks. I want to make sure everyone gets some of the same experience that I did so the shop is better taken care of.”