HomeNewsCommentariesDisplay

Historical Shadows: The quiet dedication of the aircraft mechanic

New Jersey Air National Guardsmen, Staff Sergeant Andy Amakihe, crew chief, refills a 141st Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker engine with oil on the 108th Wing’s flight line at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 26, 2017. The tanker and its crew returned from supporting Andersen Air Force Base’s ongoing refueling mission. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

New Jersey Air National Guardsman, Staff Sergeant Andy Amakihe, crew chief, refills a 141st Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker engine with oil on the 108th Wing’s flight line at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 26, 2017. The tanker and its crew returned from supporting Andersen Air Force Base’s ongoing refueling mission. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

New Jersey Air National Guardsman Senior Airmen Joshua O’Reilly, crew chief, marshals a 108th Wing KC-135 Stratotanker to its parking spot on the flight line at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 26, 2017. The tanker and its crew returned from supporting Andersen Air Force Base’s ongoing refueling mission. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

New Jersey Air National Guardsman Senior Airmen Joshua O’Reilly, crew chief, marshals a 108th Wing KC-135 Stratotanker to its parking spot on the flight line at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 26, 2017. The tanker and its crew returned from supporting Andersen Air Force Base’s ongoing refueling mission. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

Staff Sergeant Jonathan Carmona, crew chief (right), reviews a technical order with Senior Airman Jonathan Palascios-Conde, crew chief (left), on the 108th Wing flightline at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 20, 2017. The maintainers, are refueling a KC-135 in preparation of an upcoming mission. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

Staff Sergeant Jonathan Carmona, crew chief (right), reviews a technical order with Senior Airman Jonathan Palascios-Conde, crew chief (left), on the 108th Wing flightline at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., Sept. 20, 2017. The maintainers, are refueling a KC-135 in preparation of an upcoming mission. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

Senior Airman Jonathan Palascios-Conde, crew chief (left), discuss proper procedures for refueling with Staff Sergeant Jonathan Carmona, crew chief (right), while refueling a KC-135 on the 108th Wing tarmac at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Sept. 20, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

Senior Airman Jonathan Palascios-Conde, crew chief (left), discuss proper procedures for refueling with Staff Sergeant Jonathan Carmona, crew chief (right), while refueling a KC-135 on the 108th Wing tarmac at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. Sept. 20, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

Senior Airman Jonathan Palascios-Conde, crew chief, discussing proper procedures for refueling with another crew chief while refueling a KC-135 on the 108th Wing tarmac at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,N.J., Sept. 20, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

Senior Airman Jonathan Palascios-Conde, crew chief, discussing proper procedures for refueling with another crew chief while refueling a KC-135 on the 108th Wing tarmac at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst,N.J., Sept. 20, 2017. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley/Released)

JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. --

From the birth of military aviation to the jet age, renowned pilots such as Eddie Rickenbacher, Jimmy Doolittle, Paul Tibbets, Chuck Yeager, pushed their aircraft to their operational limits in order to defend the United States against tyranny and oppression. Their names are now entrenched in the collective memory of our nation.

What many readers may not contemplate are the quiet dedication of aircraft mechanics who worked seemingly countless hours behind the scenes to ensure their aircraft could meet and maintain its operational limits.

 The pilots who risked their lives on dangerous missions formed a close working cohesiveness with the mechanics who maintained their aircraft after those missions. If a rudder needed a fabric repair, a bullet riddled wing needed patching, a bomb bay needed modification or a blown tire needed replacement, the mechanic was there to ensure the pilot that the aircraft would be safe and ready for the next mission.

 Aircraft have quickly evolved over the past 114 years; and along with that evolution, aircraft maintenance has kept up the pace. Beginning with humble scissors, needles and doping brushes to today's sophisticated diagnostic computers and laser assisted tools.

 One aspect of aircraft maintenance that has not evolved is the steadfast dedication of the aircraft mechanics and the tacit bonds that are formed with their pilots. Whether working on Spad XIIIs on the muddy fields of Gangault Aerodrome, France in 1918 to the vast F-84 hardstands of Chaumont, France in 1961 to the blazing hot flightline of KC-135s in the Middle East in 2017, the aircraft mechanic has been there, enduring long hours and difficult demands to meet the mission.

 The defense of our nation has meant many challenges over time. Our aircrews have always been determined to meet those trying times; and whether the pilot was stepping onto a fabric covered wing, or ready to ascend a ladder just before entering the annals of history, there was a quietly dedicated aircraft mechanic to offer a confident and proud salute.