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Maintainer for a day

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Natalie Doan
  • 374th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

The 374th Maintenance Group hosted the first edition of its ‘Maintainer for a Day’ program by inviting four Airmen to shadow crew chiefs for a day at Yokota Air Base, Japan, June 12.

The Airmen had the opportunity to observe the maintainers in their natural habitat — the Yokota maintenance back shops — where they ensure aircraft are ready for mission execution.

The day began before sunrise with a safety and expectations brief, wherein maintainers checked if all participants had the necessary uniform items prior to their first day as honorary maintainers. Attendees then checked out tools and equipment to learn how a C-130J Super Hercules is prepared for take-off, step-by-step.

Participants had a firsthand look at the way maintainers marshal aircraft through a taxiway using hand signals and even practiced navigating themselves. Once the aircraft returned to its parking spot, they learned about the procedures and inspections maintainers conduct post-flight. During the program, attendees also visited different shops and interacted with the maintainers that man them.

Near sunset, participants returned their tools and conducted turnover procedures as they prepared for the night shift maintainers to take over.

2nd Lt. Louis Arron Cruz, 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron fabrication flight officer in charge, runs the Maintainer for a Day program and hopes it will give Airmen a new perspective of Yokota’s maintainers.

“A lot of individuals that look into the maintenance world just see these guys who get their hands dirty,” said Cruz. “And admittedly, yes, that's correct,” he chuckled. “But I would also like them to understand what these guys do on a day-to-day basis for our aircraft to fly.”

Airman 1st Class Ryan Pauley, 374th Medical Group surgical technologist, was among the first crop of participants in the Maintainer for a Day program and credits it for changing his perspective of maintainers. He initially signed up to see what his friends do, but ultimately left with a new sense of respect for them.

“I have a new level of respect for maintainers after participating in the Maintainer for a Day program,” said Pauley. “They're always in the heat, working very hard. Their jobs aren't the easiest and they're not the most fun, but they continue to come in day after day to get the job done.”

The Maintainer for a Day program doesn't just show participants what maintainers do, though. It also shows participants what they do for the men and women who are manning the flight line or repairing an aircraft.

Senior Airman Ku Kim, 374th Medical Group aerospace medical technician, also participated in the first Maintainer for a Day event and says the program has helped him to better sympathize with maintainers.

“I know what maintainers go through physically now, so if I see them at the hospital with back pain, I know exactly why,” said Kim. “I will definitely be more empathetic when they come in with symptoms. It really humbles you to know that these guys are putting their bodies on the line just to get work done.”

The 374th MXG hopes to hold a Maintainer for a Day event once per month as it strives to foster unit collaboration and cross-cultural perspectives between attendees in different career fields. It will typically host three participants per tour and interested Airmen can request to participate on a quarterly basis when information about the program is sent out through their chain of command.

Capt. Jason Bentley, 36th Airlift Squadron chief of squadron safety, highly recommends Airmen sign up after his own firsthand experience with the program.

“The Maintainer for a Day program will get you out of your day-to-day routine and give you a greater appreciation for what happens on our base,” said Bentley. “The mission here is so much more than your individual duties, and the program will give you an opportunity to see just how hard other people work to execute the mission we are committed to.”