August 13, 2010 (by 1st Lt. Kathleen Polesnak) - Twenty-nine of the wing's dedicated crew chiefs were each assigned an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a ceremony today, recognizing them as the maintenance experts on their respective aircraft assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron.
The 480th flagship aircraft F-16C block 50 #91-0366 sits on static display during the Dedicated Crew Chief Ceremony on August 13th, 2010.
The ceremony also paired each crew chief with a pilot assigned to the aircraft.
Capt. Stephen Sparkman, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron operations officer, explained an aircraft dedicated crew chief's responsibilities.
"The crew chief 'owns' the airplane, so they're responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, appearance, discrepancies - they have to keep it in tip-top shape, kind of like a race car crew chief," he said.
Staff Sgt. James Speicher, 480th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief, has been an Air Force crew chief in the Air Force for seven years and said he's the most knowledgeable about "his" jet, which is the 480th FS
"If something's going on with that jet out there - whether it's something small or a freak occurrence - I'm the best person for it because I know it," Sergeant Speicher said.
Along with their names on their respective jets, crew chiefs received coins and certificates from Lt. Col. Robert Clement, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, and recited a crew chief oath to "pledge unyielding adherence to (the) precepts for the advancement of aviation and the dignity of (the) profession."
The acknowledgement from leadership and pilots is what made this ceremony special, said Sergeant Speicher and some of his fellow 480th AMU crew chiefs. A crew chief's name on an aircraft's canopy signifies "pride, ownership, and flight chiefs and supervisors' trust in you to manage that jet," Sergeant Speicher said.
Additionally, the ceremony serves as a motivator for junior Airmen aspiring to become dedicated crew chiefs, he said.
"Hopefully they see that it's not just a given thing or an easy thing to become and it pushes people to meet standards," Sergeant Speicher added.
To be a dedicated crew chief, a maintainer must have a deeper knowledge of the aircraft, go through a crew chief class, accrue a certain amount of time on an airframe, as well as display initiative and leadership, Captain Sparkman said.
"They are hand-picked, they are selected and they are scrutinized to become a DCC," Colonel Clement said at the ceremony. "They are a cut above the rest."
The DCC ceremony is a milestone for the wing, as it followed the activation of the 480th Fighter Squadron, which combined the 22nd and 23rd fighter squadrons into a single F-16 squadron here. In turn, crew chiefs were reassigned from aircraft in the 22nd and 23rd aircraft maintenance units to F-16s in the 480th AMU.
"Being able to say the 23rd is done, the 22nd is done, here's the 480th - and literally, the next hour, we're being recognized as the dedicated crew chiefs - that's awesome," said Tech Sgt. Ben Cuthbert, 480th AMU Airplane General Flight assistant flight chief. "The DCC ceremony was the olive branch - recognition of whether we work in operations or maintenance, we're all in the brotherhood of the Air Force."
Col. Andrew Wolcott, 480th FS commander, also expressed the importance of recognizing crew chiefs for their efforts in maintaining the wing's fleet of F-16 Fighting Falcons.
"The jets don't fly by themselves," he said. "It takes a lot of work and dedication behind every sortie to generate it. When that jet goes up into the air, every mission it supports is fueled by maintenance and with the crew chief's name on it, he can take pride in all that jet participates in.
"The last thing we do before we close the canopy is shake the crew chief's hand and he goes down the ladder. There's a real tight bond between operations and maintenance - certainly a bond of trust and professionalism that the maintenance performed on the jet was professionally done and ready to perform the mission, which takes a high-level of technical expertise to make sure it's ready."