B-2 crew chiefs keep Spirits soaring
By Senior Airman Nick Wilson, 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 02, 2012
WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo -- With their hands and uniforms covered in grease, oil and hydraulic fluid, a team of crew chiefs completes a 12-hour graveyard shift just as the rest of the world awakens and prepares for the day.
No matter the time, the day or severity of the weather, crew chiefs report to their duty sections every day with one single mission - keep their aircraft flying.
As part of the Total Force Integration partnership, crew chiefs from aircraft maintenance squadrons of the 509th and 131st Bomb Wings are responsible for inspecting, troubleshooting and maintaining Whiteman's B-2 Spirits, ensuring the aircraft are combat ready to support global strike operations and nuclear deterrence.
To ensure the Airmen working on the aircraft are qualified to perform their daily duties, they receive daily training and certifications.
"Crew chiefs must be able to perform maintenance on all aspects of the B-2," said Staff Sgt. Ryan Williams, 393rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief. "So we ensure all Airmen are working safely and by the book."
With a team of 160 crew chiefs, the training Airmen receive allows them to contribute to the large amount of sorties flown each month. Between real-world and training missions, crew chiefs provide direct support to about 6,500 B-2 flying hours each year.
Williams said in addition to their regular training tasks, B-2 crew chiefs must also qualify on more than 250 different tasks outside their Air Force specialty code.
"For an Airman to be a quality crew chief, he or she needs to get all tasks signed off so they have all of the right qualifications."
Because of its mission and constant operations tempo, the B-2 crew chiefs must remain alert and aware of every maintenance issue involving their assigned aircraft.
"You have to manage your aircraft," said Staff Sgt. Chad Dodge, 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief. "You have to know the long-range maintenance schedule, when your aircraft is getting modifications made, and anything else that might come up."
Whether training to become more qualified or performing by-the-book maintenance to ensure aircraft are ready to fly, B-2 crew chiefs have a direct impact on the war effort.
"When you see your jet finally taxi out and take to the sky, that's a rewarding feeling," Williams said. "That's a huge part about being a crew chief."