Total Force C-17 crew chiefs earn JBER Pride of the Fleet laurels

  • Published
  • By David Bedard
  • 176th Wing Public Affairs

Members of a Total Force team of 176th Aircraft Maintenance Alaska Air National Guardsmen and 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Air Force Airmen were recognized for earning the status of Pride of the Fleet for C-17 Globemaster III tail number 98-0051 during a ceremony here, July 26.

The 176th AMXS and 703rd AMXS commanders recognized Tech. Sgt. Jorge Machado and Senior Airman Patrick Droege of 176th AMXS and Senior Airman Nicholas Nici and Airman 1st Class Jordan Smith of 703rd AMXS as the dedicated crew chiefs responsible for earning the honor during the ceremony.

C-17s on JBER conform to the Total Force Integration Active Association, where the Alaska Air National Guard’s 144th Airlift Squadron owns the aircraft, and the Air Force’s 517th Airlift Squadron provides additional aircrew and support Airmen.

Chief Master Sgt. Andrew Stokes, 517th Aircraft Maintenance Unit superintendent, explained the genesis of the award.

“We started this new program called Pride of the Fleet to reinvigorate some of the DCCs,” he said. “That’s the intent, to show pride of ownership in your aircraft, so going forward, we’re doing it on a quarterly basis.”

Lt. Col. Mary Hosea, 176th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, explained how Pride of the Fleet will take elite dedicated crew chiefs to the next level of professionalism.

“We’re not just giving those DCC titles to everybody; you need to earn it,” she said. “Take pride in what you do. Don’t just aim for the awards, but have a sense of pride in the mission you’re accomplishing every day. What we do here is important.”

Maj. Eric Rutter, 176th AMXS operations officer, said every DCC team was judged on several aspects of Globemaster maintenance.

“The idea is to try and make our aircraft look as good or better than the rest of the fleet,” he said. “To do that, we need standout aircraft in terms of availability, cleanliness, and appearance.

“0051 was quite clean, and that’s something you notice as you approach the aircraft,” Rutter continued. “We tell the crew chiefs to focus from where an aircrew member or customer first sees the aircraft – the nosewheel, the nose landing gear doors and the crew entry door.”

The major credited 0051’s excellence to Machado.

“A lot of the success resides with the tech sergeant and his leadership,” he said. “So, I’m proud of him, and I’m proud of the Airmen that went out there day after day to make the jet look incredible.”

As a prelude to Pride of the Fleet, 176th Maintenance Group Airmen painted tail flash emblems representing the units with a 144th AS wolf painted on the port side and a 517th AS Firebird painted starboard.

“We have done a lot of work already in coming up with the tail flash, which I would say is the most unique, and probably makes for the best-looking C-17s in the entire Air Force inventory,” Rutter said. “But that’s just the surface, and the desire is to dig deeper and to whittle down what we called delayed discrepancies. Those are discrepancies where the aircraft can still fly, but they’re a nagging item in the background that can be worked based on parts availability. Left unchecked, sometimes those items can linger for a long time.

“This program incentivizes working those behind-the-scenes discrepancies, and it also incentivizes keeping the jet clean, keeping the appearance up, doing all of the extra little things that really make it a notch above,” Rutter continued. “I think we have some of the best crew chiefs out there, but there hasn’t ever been much incentive between doing the job well and doing it exceedingly well.”

Rutter said a lot of the wear items such as covers for the head-up display, headrests and armrests have deteriorated from years of use. Though not critical to the function of the aircraft, they are instrumental in the C-17’s presentation, especially if the items are customized with unit embroidery.

“Some people will take the easy route of, ‘I opened a book, I couldn’t order the part, so I just

left it at that,’” he said. “A more creative individual may say, ‘Hey, what if we bought some of these headrests through a vendor that also offers embroidery.’”

In contrast to a by-the-book Airman, Rutter said Pride of the Fleet calls for crew chiefs to find alternative means to get low-volume parts that are difficult or impossible to get through the supply chain.

“A proactive individual can find those things and, better yet, share them with others,” He said. “When you’re proud of your aircraft, and you want to be the very best, you start to look for those additional measures.”