131st Crew Chief of the Year takes B-2 incentive flight
By Master Sgt. John E. Hillier, 131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published June 15, 2021
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- After many months of rescheduling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mission requirements and weather events, the 131st Bomb Wing 2019 Crew Chief of the Year recently took to the skies above Missouri for an incentive flight in a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.
Master Sgt. Justin Petree, a dedicated crew chief for the wing’s flagship, the Spirit of Missouri, was recognized with the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Thomas N. Barnes Award for the 131st Bomb Wing.
“I appreciate that the hard work and dedication I’ve shown through the years is acknowledged,” Petree said. “It’s good to be recognized for that experience at that level. It takes a lot of time to get it all done, but it’s something I love to do.”
Petree was selected for the honor due to his work ethic, and outstanding performance over the course of a busy year. Mission requirements took him around the world, supporting bomber missions and exercises in Guam, Iceland and Alaska, as well as at home on Whiteman.
“The Barnes Award recognizes the dedicated crew chief who has exemplified themselves as a maintainer through their knowledge, safety record, training records and their leadership ability,” said Senior Master Sgt. Patrick McManus, Airplane General Section Chief. “Master Sgt. Petree has proven himself worthy in all these categories and then some.”
In addition to ensuring his aircraft is mission capable, Petree is also responsible for training the next generation of Spirit maintainers. The B-2 maintenance mission is a total force effort, so he teaches and trains both Guard and active-duty Airmen to keep the aircraft mission-ready.
“For both the 131st and 509th [Bomb Wings], Master Sgt. Petree is an engine and auxiliary power unit run certifier and a hot-pit certifier,” said McManus. “His knowledge and experience on the B-2 is remarkable which makes him a vital asset to the mission, sought after by his leadership and peers.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and Missouri weather teamed up to make sure that Petree’s wait for his incentive flight was longer than most Barnes Award winners, but the payoff was worth it when he finally was able to take his turn in the cockpit. At the time of his flight Petree was only the 18th enlisted Airman, and 750th person overall to fly in a B-2.
“I’ve never ridden in something so smooth – it’s like glass in that plane,” Petree said. “And the air refueling is unreal. We hooked up to a tanker, took on some gas. It’s just unreal being that close to another plane.”