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It Takes More than a Maintainer to Keep the Machines Running

Airman

U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Jennifer Whitlock, 173rd Fighter Wing Transportation Management NCO, works out the logistics of a return home to Kingsley Field, May 13, 2021 at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The 173rd Fighter Wing flew to Eglin Air Force Base from May 1-15 to support F-35A Lightning II B-Course students by serving as adversary air opponents. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Airman Adam Smith)

F-15

A U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle from the 173rd Fighter Wing takes off from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., May 10, 2021. The 173rd Fighter Wing flew to Eglin Air Force Base from May 1-15 to support F-35A Lightning II B-Course students by serving as adversary air opponents. (U.S. Air National Guard Photo by Senior Airman Adam Smith)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Many Airmen of the U.S. Air Force are familiar with the common question: “Are you a pilot?” It’s a simple query served by many members of the public who simply aren’t familiar with the inner workings of America’s Air Defense.

Only a small fraction wear wings within the military, however, and it may surprise some to hear that many don’t even directly interact with aircraft at all. The reality is that the aircrew, maintainers, and the broader USAF are utterly dependent on the Airmen who devote their service to making sure that equipment is available, parts are delivered, and salaries paid.

When the 173rd Fighter Wing travelled to Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., May 1-15, 2021, they brought a handful of Airmen whose jobs were to handle everything not related to flying.

For Master Sergeant Jennifer Whitlock, Air Transportation NCO, this meant setting up the cargo planes to deliver the Airmen and equipment, coordinating trucks to drive across the nation with large shipping containers, and make sure nothing was lost along the way.

Encountering difficulties such as cancelled flights and delayed shipments were not uncommon for Whitlock.

“We ended up bringing a military truck to offset one of the [commercial] trucks that didn’t show up,” said Whitlock, complimenting the team of Airmen who worked on the back end to make arrangements last minute to get everything where it needed to go.

Lt. Col Kevin Welch, TDY Project Officer, said “One of the best things is they’re such professionals, and they just show up and do their job.”

According to Welch, one of the primary strengths of the Kingsley Family is their ability to get the job done without dependence on external input. “You don’t see that everywhere.”