Military News

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Dedicated crew chiefs honored by 90th Fighter Squadron

by Staff Sgt. Wes Wright
JBER Public Affairs

11/2/2015 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- "General, when is the last time you washed a rental car?"

The story of how a crew chief responded to Air Force Gen. William Creech in the 1970s when asked what the maintainer liked about the Dedicated Crew Chief Program, reverberated through a hangar at the 90th Fighter Squadron on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson during a DCC ceremony Oct. 23.

The Airman's simple answer stuck with Creech; it summarized the underlying intent of the program: aircraft ownership.

The Airman was implying that if you own something, chances are you'll take better care of it.

A sense of ownership was highlighted during a local ceremony in which 23 crew chiefs were recognized as "owning" an F-22 Raptor. The honor of being recognized as one of the best within the aircraft maintenance career field includes having the individual's name printed on the side of a jet along with the corresponding pilot's.
Only one maintainer gets to have his name emblazoned on an aircraft.

"Aircraft ownership is the lifeblood of what makes an aircraft maintenance unit run," said Air Force Master Sgt. Abigail Curtis, 3rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron aircraft section chief. The purpose of this ceremony is to formally appoint those selected to assume those awesome responsibilities."

A pilot assigned to the same aircraft presented each new DCC with a certificate and coin, officially designating the crew chief to their aircraft.

Afterward, the DCCs received a customized set of coveralls indicating their newfound responsibility, honor and prestige.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Thies, 3rd AMXS crew chief, was one of the Airmen to be assigned the recognized as a DCC at the ceremony.

The Winside, Nebraska native's pilot, Maj. Dan McAllister, 90th Fighter Squadron F-22 instructor, presented Thies with his certificate.

"It means a lot," Thies said. "It means the world to me. It means I have stood out from my peers. It's pretty awesome to have my name on the side of that jet right next to my pilot's. Every day I see my aircraft and it makes me smile."

"To be clear, it's my aircraft; I just let the major fly it once in a while," Thies added with a chuckle.

McAllister said the bond between a crew chief and pilot is built on trust and goes back to the very beginning of flight.

"It doesn't even cross my mind when I'm flying to worry if the jet has been properly maintained," McAllister said. "That's proof of the confidence I have in my crew chief and our maintenance teams. I go out and fly the jet to its limits and have no doubts that it's going to perform as it should."

While the concept of ownership was the theme of the day, Air Force Maj. Paul Netchaeff, 3d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, made sure those in attendance knew what ownership meant in this context.

"It doesn't mean they can tow it home; it's not that kind of ownership," Netchaeff said. "It's about taking pride in what you do. DCCs are handpicked based on professionalism, dedication, leadership, initiative, expertise, and exuding the core values.

They are the last to touch it before a sortie and the first to touch it when it comes back. It is a pivotal role. This aircraft has got to be combat ready all the time. Lives are at stake."

Lt. Col. James Akers, 90th FS commander and F-22 pilot, was a keynote speaker at the event and had high praise for the DCCs assigned to his squadron's jets.

"The maintenance team here sets the bar," Akers said. "I see it every day. I step out, [I see] the professionalism, the expertise ... it gives me chills. I'm very honored and humbled. We show up a couple of hours before the flight, fly and then stay as long as is required to debrief; but, we know the crew chiefs show up before us - and are here long after we're gone - to make sure this asset is ready to answer the nation's call."

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