F-16.net: Please give us an overview of your military career and tell the readers a
little about yourself?
421st Tactical Fighter Squadron patch (Jon Somerville collection)
Randy: I joined the USAF in 1988 after high school. I went to Lackland AFB, TX for Basic training, and then to Sheppard AFB, TX for Crew Chief Tech school. In December 1988 I was sent to Homestead AFB FL, for follow up training (I think it was called FTO training) After that and a brief leave at home I was assigned to the 50th TFW 10th AMU Hahn AB Germany. In 1991 I was re-assigned to the 388thTFW 421st TFS Hill AFB, UT. While at Hill AFB I was part of the 388th TFW 1991 Gunsmoke Team. I made Sergeant, discharged and went home to Wisconsin. I was a diesel mechanic for about a year and then in 1993 I started working for the Wisconsin Department of Corrections. In 1994 I went
into the USAF reserves at the 440th AW 95th AS at Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, WI. I cross trained to AirCrew Life Support and spent that time working with C-130 aircrews. I did this until 1997 when I was finally discharged. I am now married to my wife Jennifer and have a 2 year old son, Cole.
Randy visiting his F-16C (#84-1377
) that he crewed over 14 years earlier when the aircraft was with the 10th TFS but shown here at Fort Wayne, Indiana.
F-16.net: Do you have a nick name?
Randy: Most people back then (and now) call me "MEV" and there was a time when I was in Germany that people called me "MERV"
F-16.net: What is your most memorable time out on the ramp working on the F-16 both positive and/or negative?
Randy: Positive: Shortly after arriving in Germany my unit went TDY (temporary Duty) to Incirlik AB Turkey. While I was there I received an incentive flight in the back seat of 84-1331. We did the usual stuff for a flight of this nature, going ballistic (straight up from a take off) breaking the speed of sound, barrel rolls, and loops. The pilot let me fly the jet for about half the flight, talking me through the maneuvers. He even talked me through a loop.
Negative: Probably the most negative thing happened while I was part of the 1991 Gunsmoke team. The jets were configured with bomb pylon where we normally had the wing tanks. Not being use to having them in this location, I was re-fueling after a sortie when I bent down to disconnect the ground wire from the fuel truck. I hit my head on the trailing edge of the bomb pylon about in the center of my forehead. I thought to myself "that stings a bit" (and a few other choice words) and then the sweat from my head got into it and started to burn (I thought) as I was recoiling the ground wire I felt what I thought was sweat running down my face. I looked at the fuel truck operator who asked if I was OK. I said "yeah I just hit my head on the bomb pylon." He said "No Sh*t." I put my hand to my head to wipe the sweat from my face and realized it wasn't sweat. I had cut my forehead open and left a gash about 2 inches long, which was spewing blood. At this point I started to get a bit dizzy, another crew chief came running over, as I hit the ground. The expediter van arrived on scene and they literally threw me in the back and drove me to the base hospital. I was out of work for about 2 days, received 26 stitches, and a really neat scar.
Randy sitting in an F-16 at Hahn AB in 1990.
F-16.net: What is the hardest thing about working on the F-16?
Randy: The hardest thing about working on the F-16 to me was probably the height of the jet. I'm 6'2" and that makes for a lot of bumps on your head. In a more technical aspect I would say that it's all in pretty tight quarters. You don't have a lot of room to see what you're doing. Sometimes you get pretty creative in how you get an arm or your head in a certain place to do what
you have to do.
F-16.net: Other than the F-16, what aircraft have you worked on? And how does the
Randy: None, and none compare.
F-16.net: Any fond memories of a specific deployment or exercise?
Randy: Well the TDY to Incirlik AB in Turkey, when I got my incentive flight. How could I ever forget that. Probably the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me. Come to think of it, just launching the jets was a huge rush. As a buddy of mine put it, "There ain't nothing like it in the world, it's the most awesome thing we get to do."
F-16.net:Tell us about that "pickled" engine in Zaragoza AB Spain, and why you
were TDY there? (see pictures below)
Randy: The pickled engine was put in a jet we had there that needed a different engine. The extra engine we brought with us for the 30 day TDY were shipped with fluid of some sort in them so they didn't corrode in transit. the reason we were in Spain was for the same reason we went to Turkey.
Photo's of an F-16 with a pickeled engine. The aircraft were TDY in Spain from the 10th TFS (photos by Randy Meverden)
F-16.net: What assignment/squadron was your favorite?
Randy: The 50th TFW in Germany. We went on a lot of TDY's to Spain and to Turkey. I did a lot or really neat things there like Hot Pit re-fueling, and working End of Runway. If I remember right we called it, "hot winching" We had these winches inside of the hardened shelters in Germany and the jets returned from their flights we would marshal them into position in front of the shelter. An assistant would hook up really big cables and we would winch him back into the shelter while the jet was still running.
F-16.net:When you were "hot winching", what part of the F-16 was hitched up to the
winch? And who gets that job? Why would this be done?
Randy: Well you would hot winch to get the jet under cover in a hurry i.e. if the base was being attacked. the cables connect to big D rings connected to the main landing gear by the wheels. The person that connects the cables was generally a person that wasn't doing anything. It took hardly any special training.
Randy's F-16C (#84-1377
) at Hahn AB in 1990.
F-16.net:Why were you TDY to Turkey? Was that with the 10th AMU?
Randy: Yes with the 10th. we were there because Germany where Hahn AB is, is very rainy and there is a lot of fog. We went there to fly in nice weather.
F-16.net: Is there any particular F-16 tail number(s) to which you are fond?
Randy: 84-1377. This was my first F-16 assignment. As the years have gone by I decided to look up a few of the people I was in the Air Force with. While I was doing this I decided to see what Viper pictures I could find on the web as well. That is when I stumbled upon F-16.net. Through F-16.net I found out that she had been re-assigned to the 122nd FW in Fort Wayne Indiana. After doing a little looking around I found that someone had even posted a picture of my old plane. I couldn't believe it. I called the 122nd FW, explained who I was and the tie I had to #84-1377 and they said to come down when ever I wanted to. When I arrived at the 122nd FW, I was taken to the fuel barn
where she was. She was in phase dock and was nearly ready to come out. I took a few pictures and had a couple of me taken next to her. It had been 14 years since I had seen her last. As a matter of fact the last time I seen her was when I launched her to go to the Gulf for the Gulf War.
The only other Viper that I crewed was #87-0351 at Hill AFB, but this one I didn't work on nearly as much as I was selected for the 1991 Gunsmoke team and did considerable training with the team.
F-16.net: What is the best/worst practical joke you played on a victim(s)?
10th TFS aircraft from Hahn AB, Germany. (Photo by SSgt Jose Lopez)
Randy: Well it wasn't a joke but it certainly was funny. When you are getting ready to launch a Viper, you check the hydraulics among many other things. We were TDY at Zaragoza AB, Spain. On this particular hot day the morning crew chief was doing the regular checks and noticed the hydraulic system was a bit on the high side. There wasn't a hydraulic cart around and he didn't want to just shoot hydraulic fluid out onto the flight line, so he bled out some of the fluid into a 1-liter water bottle that he had bought off the "roach coach" that morning. After the plane left, his relief came on duty and he went home. The morning crew chief and the 2nd shifter were good friends and were in the habit of leaving things for each other i.e. water, juice, snacks whatever wasn't eaten during the morning. Well this 2nd shifter comes on duty goes out to the spot where his jet will come back to
and sees this water bottle. If I remember correctly he said he thought it was awfully thoughtful of the day shift guy to leave him some "Kool Aid." So, he opened it up and took a long drink. He was released from the base hospital the next day, and given strict instructions not to go around drinking strange red liquids.
F-16.net: What advice would you give junior ground crew?
Randy: ATTENTION TO DETAIL! Every little thing you do with the plane could affect the pilot. Take your time, and make darn sure you cover everything. There is no worse feeling in the world as you wait and wait for your plane to come back. When they are past due you are always thinking did I do this? Or did I do that? Then when she flies overhead and lands you breathe a sigh of relief.
F-16.net: Any words of advice to any of our young readers wanting to join the
Randy: Go for it! I don't regret a minute of it. Make sure you take advantage of the government paying for you to see the world. You only live once.
F-16.net: Thank you for the interview!
- Sgt. Randy Meverden was interviewed online by Jon Somerville in April of 2004 -