SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --
The U.S. Air Force 77th Fighter Squadron and 77th Fighter Generation Squadrons held a ceremony here recognizing newly assigned dedicated crew chiefs, Aug. 1.
F-16 Fighting Falcon pilots assigned the newly dedicated crew chiefs their identifier tabs, symbolizing the beginning of their partnership working together to generate combat airpower.
“The relationship between pilot and maintainer is important and is a relationship built on mutual trust,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Christopher Behrens, 77th FS commander. “The maintainer works hard to keep the jet healthy and combat ready, and the pilot desires to bring it back in good shape. The relationship is solidified when the pilot walks out to the jet, with the first salute and handshake and through the ground [operations] coordination prior to takeoff. The crew chief gives the last handshake that a pilot gets before taking that jet to war.”
The dedicated crew chiefs from the 77th Fighter Generation Squadrons (FGS) are selected on the basis of leadership ability and technical knowledge. The crew chiefs are responsible for the continuity and airworthiness of the aircraft and work closely with their pilots to maintain mission readiness.
“The relationship is critical to mission success,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Thomas Wojtowicz, 77th Fighter Squadron dedicated crew chief. “The pilot is putting their trust in you and you’re the last person they talk to before they go up there. I always wish my pilot a safe flight, so the pilot and crew chief connection has to be strong.”
Aviation maintainers have a long history with rich tradition. This history is embedded into each aircraft from the dedicated crew chiefs before them, thus the ceremony embodies not only the beginning of their charge, but a continuation of a lasting part of Wild Weasel identity.
U.S. Air Force Maj. Jessica Watts, 77th Fighter Generation Squadron commander, expressed that many ceremonies in the Air Force celebrate the culmination of hard work, however, the dedicated crew chief ceremony is the opposite in how it marks the beginning of the mission to keep aircraft fit to fly.
“Our pilots will both tab and coin our [dedicated crew chiefs],” said Watts. “This action is symbolic… of the unity of the Fighter Squadron and the Fighter Generation Squadron. There’s a reason each aircraft has two names on it: The pilot’s name and the crew chief’s name.”