Engine Work Boosts Michigan Airmen

Staff Sgt. Joe Wilhoit, a sheet metal specialist with the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, works on the engine housing on an A-10 Thunderbolt II at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Jan. 6, 2018. The aircraft is flown by the Red Devils of the 107th Fighter Squadron

Staff Sgt. Joe Wilhoit, a sheet metal specialist with the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard, works on the engine housing on an A-10 Thunderbolt II at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Jan. 6, 2018. The aircraft is flown by the Red Devils of the 107th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

Airman 1st Class Johnny Bowen works on a TF34 jet engine from an A-10 Thunderbolt II at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Jan 6, 2018. Bowen is an aerospace propulsion technician for the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Airman 1st Class Johnny Bowen works on a TF34 jet engine from an A-10 Thunderbolt II at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Jan 6, 2018. Bowen is an aerospace propulsion technician for the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

Airman 1st Class Jeremy Short and Airman 1st Class Austin Bowen work on engine maintenance at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Jan. 6, 2017. The Airmen are both aerospace propulsion technicians in the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 127th Wing here.

Airman 1st Class Jeremy Short and Airman 1st Class Austin Bowen work on engine maintenance at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., Jan. 6, 2017. The Airmen are both aerospace propulsion technicians in the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 127th Wing here. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton)

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- For three Michigan Citizen-Airmen, working on jet engines at Selfridge Air National Guard Base is the right assignment to help launch both a military and a civilian career.

“Just the sound of it intrigued me,” Airman 1st Class Johnny Bowen said of his duties as an aerospace propulsion technician at the base. “I didn’t even know what that meant exactly when I was starting to enlist. Now, it’s what I do.”

Bowen is an aerospace propulsion technician – what an outside observer might call a jet engine mechanic – with the 127th Maintenance Group, working on the TF34 turbofan engines found on the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft at Selfridge.

Bowen joined the Michigan Air National Guard about two and a half years ago. During his January 2018 drill weekend, he joined a small group of fellow technicians in engaging in a series of preventative maintenance tasks on A-10 engines at the base. On a scheduled basis, engines are removed from the aircraft and run through a series of tasks to ensure that the engines stay finely tuned.

Two other Airmen 1st Class technicians, Austin Brownson and Jeremy Short, were working together on the same engine, testing and lubricating internal components of the engine. Brownson and Short have each worked in the propulsion shop for less than a year, after completing their initial technical training in 2017.

As traditional members of the Michigan Air National Guard, they now serve on military duty about one weekend per month, plus a couple of weeks of active duty at some point in the year. Both are currently students when not on military status.

Short is an apprentice in a union-sponsored training program for electricians.

While he said that working on jet engines at Selfridge is not directly related to his civilian training, he appreciates the variety it gives him.

“It kind of mixes it up a bit to get to come in here and work in these engines,” he said.

Brownson is a student at nearby Macomb Community College.

“When I came in to the Air Force, I knew I wanted to do some kind of engine work,” he said. “And, the fact that there was a cash bonus to enlist in this career field – I am not going to lie, that was a factor.”

Bowen, who has been working in the propulsion shop for about 2 ½ years, said working on the engines has helped him in his civilian job. He works as a mechanic on turbines.

“There’s a lot of overlap, so the training I’ve had on the engines here has definitely helped me in my civilian career,” Bowen said.