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Getting dedicated: 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron inducts 48 crew chiefs

Staff Sgt. Travis Clark, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief, polishes the side panels on an F-16. Once crew chief’s obtain a 7 skill level, their name is put on the aircraft they are assigned to maintain. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Doza)

Staff Sgt. Travis Clark, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief, polishes the side panels on an F-16. Once crew chief’s obtain a 7 skill level, their name is put on the aircraft they are assigned to maintain. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Doza)

Staff Sgt. Matthew Gililland, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief, inspects an F-16. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Doza)

Staff Sgt. Matthew Gililland, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief, inspects an F-16. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Doza)

Staff Sgt. Rodney Bible, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief, completes a pre-flight inspection on his F-16. A pre-flight prep consists of checking fluid and nitrogen levels and making sure it is within limits. It also includes opening panels for the engine start up. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Doza)

Staff Sgt. Rodney Bible, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief, completes a pre-flight inspection on his F-16. A pre-flight prep consists of checking fluid and nitrogen levels and making sure it is within limits. It also includes opening panels for the engine start up. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Doza)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- Forty-eight members of the 31st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron were inducted as dedicated crew chiefs in a ceremony at Hangar One Tuesday. 

The ceremony recognizes an important step in a crew chief's career progression. A dedicated crew chief position is usually reserved for members who hold the rank of staff sergeant and have obtained a 7 skill level. 

"When you become a DCC, you should know every aspect of your jet. In addition to basic crew chief things, you should know when weapons, specialists or avionics equipment is broken," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Gililland, 555th Aircraft Maintenance Unit dedicated crew chief. "Even if you don't normally fix a piece of equipment, you need to know what's wrong with it and what needs to be done to fix it." 

Besides being recognized for their knowledge base, there is another honor associated with becoming a dedicated crew chief - getting assigned to a jet with their name on it. 

"A dedicated crew chief's overall responsibility is to oversee every facet of the aircraft from maintenance to cleanliness," said Staff Sgt. Travis Clark, 555th AMU dedicated crew chief. "Once you make staff sergeant, they usually assign you an aircraft and that's when you get your name up on the canopy. Usually, you'll have to be a 7-level before they give you a jet." 

Like many jobs in the Air Force, being a dedicated crew chief can be a mix of blood, sweat and tears. 

"Being a crew chief is a pretty tough job and it takes a tough skin to be able to do it," said Sergeant Clark. "Your work schedule depends on the flying schedule. We come in two to three hours before the pilots fly to prep the aircraft. You're at the mercy of your aircraft - if she's breaking, she's breaking you. You stay until the aircraft is fixed." 

Sergeant Gililland added that while they have a tough job, crew chiefs do get the satisfaction of knowing that their work has a direct impact on mission success. 

"There's also the pride in being a crew chief. You have something to show for what you did," he said. 

Because they are responsible for a specific aircraft, dedicated crew chiefs must ensure everything is working properly and the jet is ready to go whenever needed. 

"A large part of the mission and one of the most important parts of the job is that we are the only mechanics that inspect everything on the aircraft," said Master Sgt. Gary Western, 555th AMU aircraft section chief. "We look at everything at the end of every flight the special and avionics equipment." 

Knowing an F-16's history is a big part of keeping the aircraft prepared to fly.
"When a DCC leaves, he can fill in the next one about the history of the jet such as how many bombs have been dropped," said Sergeant Clark. "This is information DCCs like to know and is helpful especially when you go up for DCC competitions." 

Dedicated crew chief competitions between the 555th and 510th AMUs happen every quarter. 

"The operations commander and chief will question crew chiefs about the aircraft," explained Sergeant Clark. "If you know more about your aircraft than your opponent, then that's going to show you are on top of things." 

With the long hours and heavy responsibility crew chiefs deal with, what can make the job fun? Since DCCs are responsible for their assigned F-16, they go wherever the aircraft flies. 

"This means you get to go on a lot of cool TDYs," said Sergeant Clark. "Since I've been here, we've been to England, Spain, Ireland, Slovakia and Turkey." For Sergeant Clark, the travel perks of his job also helped him in another way: he happened to meet his wife on a recent TDY.