Misawa crew chiefs work into the night
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- Working amongst the glow of blue flightline lights, a crew chief hastily examines an F-16 Fighting Falcon. The aircraft has just landed after a one-hour flight above Misawa, but Staff Sgt. Cody Puente's job has just begun. In order to prepare the jet for its next flight, he inspects compartments, safety wire and oil levels.
As a 35th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Airman assigned to the 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit as a dedicated crew chief, Puente is responsible for making sure every F-16 is in perfect working order during all hours of the day.
From July 27-31, Puente and his fellow crew chiefs' schedule shifted from morning to night, accommodating night flying requirements for Misawa pilots. This schedule runs from approximately 12-9 p.m. about three to four times a year, said Puente.
"We go with whatever the flying schedule is," said Puente. "We have to be very flexible because it changes every week."
The adjustment requires an additional array of equipment and more awareness in the dark to safely accomplish the mission.
"The number of jets that go up depend on if we can meet a pre-made schedule," said Puente. "If the pilot takes up a jet and there is something wrong with it in-flight, we have to fix it when it comes down."
To meet the needs of the Air Force, crew chiefs are used to making personal sacrifices and adapting to plan fluctuations, said Puente.
"We don't get allotted time to do a lot of things like going to the gym, so we do it in our personal time," said Airman 1st Class Colleen Burke, 14 AMU assistant dedicated crew chief. "Sometimes I'll even grab extra food from the dining facility in the mornings to avoid missing dinner at work."
Oftentimes these Airmen appreciate the unseen benefits of each new situation.
Airman 1st Class Jacob Dudley, 13 AMU assistant dedicated crew chief, recently spent up to 12 hours on the swing shift finishing inspections, reconfiguring tanks and fixing a jet's nose-steering wheel actuator. The night shift is a welcome change for him.
"With this most recent schedule change, I've had time in the mornings to knock out things I need to do," said Dudley.
Others acknowledge the simplicity of moving away from monotony in the workplace, said Puente.
Appreciation aside, these Airmen show dedication toward their work by tailoring their lives around their jobs without hesitation.
"I've always been the kind of person who takes pride in my work no matter what I'm doing," said Puente. "I have a sense of pride if I do heavy maintenance leading to a great flight."
Some career fields don't get to experience the direct impact of their efforts, whereas Burke and Dudley expressed satisfaction from seeing the result of theirs.
"Doing a lot of hard work is part of being a crew chief," said Dudley. "But at the end of the day, I know I'm putting jets in the air and I'm getting the job done."