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Avionics Airmen get ‘hands-on’ with Selfridge A-10s

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Dan Heaton
  • 127th Wing Public Affairs
Having both an interest some kind of hands-on mechanical work as well as computer technology, Airman 1st Class Travis Bowman landed in an ideal spot when he enlisted in the Michigan Air National Guard.

"I always wanted to get involved with aviation in some capacity," Bowman said. "This is a great step into it."

For Bowman, "this" is an assignment as an avionics systems specialist with the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Bowman enlisted in the Michigan ANG in 2013 and returned from his Basic Military Training and technical school training about a month ago. Now, the Michigan resident is working full-time at Selfridge for six months on "seasoning training," - really getting to know the ins and outs of life as a maintainer of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, the aircraft every calls the "Warthog."

"They come out of technical school with a strong foundation," said Senior Master Sgt. Ron Thornsberry, who oversees the avionics section for the A-10s at Selfridge. "But when they can get out here and get hands-on with our jets and really start working with them, that's when our newer Airmen can get the expertise that we need."

On a recent warm-ish day in late October, Bowman was working with three other 127th AMXS Airmen, running a series of systems checks on an A-10, including a scheduled diagnostic review of the aircraft's auto-pilot system. Outside the hangar and perhaps a few hundred yards to the west, four A-10s were just taking off from the Selfridge runway, ready for an afternoon training mission. Still more of the base's A-10s are on temporary duty right now in Germany, participating in the Combined Resolve exercise, a large, multinational training exercise. Typically, such a systems check is performed by two Airmen. Today, Bowman and another recent technical school graduate, Airman 1st Class Adam Armstrong, are getting training on the work by two more experienced maintainers, Staff Sgt. Karl Krueger and Senior Master Sgt. David Fickies.

"Joining the Air Force is something that I always wanted to do," said Armstrong, who graduated from his technical school training about a month before Bowman.

Asked how he explains his new Air Force duty to his civilian friends, Armstrong just chuckled.

"I just tell them I fix airplanes. I try to keep it pretty simple," he said.

In reality, avionics specialists inspect, troubleshoot and maintain all of the various electronic systems integrated into the aircraft, including weapons targeting, navigation and the myriad of systems needed to keep the aircraft flying.

For Armstrong, the move into the aircraft maintenance world was a relatively easy one. He performs similar duties as a private commercial pilot and aircraft maintainer in his civilian career. As a member of the Air National Guard, he'll return to his civilian career and generally perform one weekend a month of military duty, along with two weeks of annual military training.

"It's been a good fit for me," Armstrong said. "I've stepped in to exactly what I wanted to be able to do."

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.