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380AEW Article

Crew Chiefs: The First and the Last for the Mission

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Mya M. Crosby
  • 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The aircraft is scheduled to land in 10 minutes and Airmen rally up to gather their gear. Reflective belts; laptops full of instructions and technical orders; and giant tool boxes the size of a dresser or wardrobe are checked out and taken on their way to their destination.

The Airmen gather to the parking spot, while the aircraft is taxiing down the flight line. At least two of them make sure everything is in order for the aircrew to deplane. Meanwhile, another is tasked to be the aircraft marshaller, who is skilled in communicating with personnel taxiing or operating the aircraft on the ground using some of the 87 ground movement signals for all aircraft.

 These Airmen are collectively known as Tactical Aircraft Maintenance Specialists, or “crew chiefs,” and are responsible for the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s RQ-4 Global Hawk, U-2 Dragon Lady, E-3 AWACS Sentry and the KC-10 Extender.

The aircrafts’ capabilities range from Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance to refueling, and the crew chiefs are the first and last stop for the aircraft before and after their takeoff to fulfill the mission.

“On a normal day I will typically do a pre-flight inspection, run ground for a launch, catch an aircraft, service liquid oxygen, service the lavatory, and prep our other aircraft for the next day of flying,” said Senior Airman Devon Gilbert, 380th EAMXS E-3 crew chief. “And at the end of the day if there’s time, I go to the gym and get ‘swole.’”

Whether it’s the task of a quick FOD check or six-hours of troubleshooting, through any type of weather scenario, the specialists are outside with the aircraft ensuring a safe flight for the pilots and the aircraft.

“The challenges that we face, at times, are long hours—working 12 hour days and in all weather conditions, from the very hot conditions to the rainy and cold conditions,” said Airman 1st Class Dustin Giesick, 380th EAMXS U-2 Dragon Lady crew chief. “For me, I overcome by thinking of my family and wife. They are my motivation through the hard challenging times.”

“The best part about being a crew chief, in my eyes, is the camaraderie,” said Senior Airman Chase Doyen, 380th EAMXS KC-10 crew chief. “The job tends to be not the most glamorous, but working side-by-side with a great group of people makes it all better. The people is what makes the KC-10 fly and I’m proud of that.”

The crew chief’s extensive list of responsibilities including, pre-, post- and thru-flight checks, as well as various inspections, allows them to fully understand their vital role, making them jacks-of-all-trades when it comes to repairing the aircraft.

As their jobs may differ when it comes to their respective aircraft, the Airmen each take pride in the overarching role of what it means to be a crew chief.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Peterson, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron RQ-4 crew chief, said “As a crew chief, my job is important because, without people to fix the aircraft and ready it for flight, the mission doesn’t happen.”