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Selfridge crew chiefs keep tankers flying

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
With several relatively new Airmen assigned to his duty section, Tech. Sgt. Timothy Kelly says he's enjoying his job as a KC-135 Stratotanker crew chief at Selfridge Air National Guard Base more than ever.

"You meet so many different personalities, different people, and they all come out here and say 'let's fix something,'" said Kelly.

Kelly has been a member of the 191st Maintenance Squadron at Selfridge for 12 years. He's worked in a few different shops over that time, but has always been directly involved in the maintenance of "heavies" - Air Force lingo for large, multi-engine aircraft. Now, he's helping to train some of the junior Airmen in the squadron, Airmen like Airmen 1st Class Mike Fontana and Brett Carroll, who combined have less than three total years of service in the Michigan Air National Guard.

"I remember when I was the new guy," Kelly said. "Each of my trainers had a different style, a different approach, but you learn something from each one. You're passing on a lot of information, but the biggest thing you teach is a love of the job and the need do things the right way."

On the Saturday of the 127th Wing's December Unit Training Assembly, Kelly was leading a small team of crew chiefs, including Fontana and Carroll, who were performing an HPO, or hourly post-flight inspection, of a KC-135. During the inspection, the Airmen are performing a number of visual inspections of the aircraft, looking to catch any possible small problem before they become a major issue. Parts are lubricated, tires are changed and other basic jobs are handled, all based on a checklist and the knowing eye of a trained crew chief.

"The best part of the job is just being outside and being around the aircraft," said Carroll.

Carroll has been working as a crew chief for about three months, having completed his Basic Military Training and Technical School earlier this year.

"There's a lot to learn, (technical orders), all the safety around the aircraft," he said. "The biggest thing is staying in communication with your team."

Fontana has been working as a 191st crew chief for almost a year. During this HPO, he's wearing a pair of blue surgical-style gloves and applying grease to a long grooved metal rod that is used to raise and lower the boom on the rear of a KC-135. He's climbed up inside the fuselage on the rear of the aircraft and can feel the wind buffeting the parked aircraft.

"You think about what you get to do and the mission that we do, it's pretty cool to be a part of that," he said.

Once Fontana is finished and out of the fuselage, Kelly will raise and lower the boom from inside the boom pod inside the aircraft. It's a relatively minor procedure really, but just one of dozens of tasks that the crew chiefs perform to keep the aircraft mission-ready.

"It's a good job," Fontana said. "Out here you really get to be part of something."

About the 127th Wing
Comprised of approximately 1,700 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operation Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marks its 97th year of continuous military air operations in 2014.