25th AMU Airmen keep Thunderbolts flying
OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Airmen often list off a variety of reasons for joining their specific career field, such as “I like to work on computers,” or “I like to get my hands dirty.”
Childhood admiration might have played the biggest role for Senior Airman Jarred Sozzi, 25th Aircraft Maintenance Unit electronic and environmental systems technician, for how he ended up working on the A-10 Thunderbolt II.
“It was my favorite model plane while I was growing up,” said Sozzi. “I had one with a tiger face painted on, just like the planes at Moody [Air Force Base, Georgia], hanging up on my ceiling by some fishing line.”
Sozzi was glad to have the chance to work on his favorite aircraft after years of admiring it as a child, but learning about the actual impact it has on the lives of so many troops on the ground gave him an even greater appreciation for the A-10 and its mission.
“It saves our guys on the ground from some pretty nasty stuff, and I’m really glad I can be a part of that,” he said.
Not everybody grew up idolizing the lovingly nicknamed “Warthog” like Sozzi,. Staff Sgt. Joshua Anderson, 25th AMU dedicated crew chief, admittedly hated working on the A-10 when he was a new Airman; it wasn’t until he deployed with the airframe that he truly began to appreciate it.
“I always thought what we did was pointless until I actually talked to some of the Army guys who benefited from what we do,” said Anderson. “A lot them said [the A-10] saved their lives, and they kind of put it in this special light.”
Anderson has been to three different bases with the A-10, this being his third non-consecutive tour at Osan. He has also deployed in support of contingency operations, including Operation Enduring Freedom, three times. He now considers himself fully dedicated to the aircraft, unlike his early days in the Air Force.
“I’ll never do anything other than this,” he said. “Once I got that big picture on my first deployment, I was volunteering for every deployment, every TDY; anything that we ever had come up, I wanted to do it. I got to actually see what it did, and I love seeing what they do here, too.”
While Anderson acknowledges no ground troop has ever directly thanked him for “turning a wrench” on an A-10, a lot of people light up and speak to him differently when they find out what aircraft he’s attached to.
He had the opportunity to speak to and better understand the importance of the airframe when he and several other crew chiefs were on a tour of the Demilitarized Zone with pilots and joint tactical air controllers from Osan.
“We got into some really long talks with them about everything,” he said. “They actually took us out to their training fields and showed us how they call stuff in and do their job.”
The Warthog is mutually respected among ground troops, bringing together members of different branches as they appreciate the aircraft and crews that have saved them in the heat of battle. For the maintenance Airmen who work on the Thunderbolts day-in and day-out, however, they have more than just a plane bringing them together.
“For us, there’s only a handful of bases to choose from, so everyone knows everyone as a result,” said Senior Airman Jonathan Wirkkala, 25th AMU avionics systems technician.
Active-duty A-10 maintenance Airmen are able to go to Moody AFB; Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona; Nellis AFB, Nevada; and here at Osan.
“We all see each other pretty much 24/7,” said Anderson. “It’s an amazing group of people and I honestly have nothing negative to say about them.”
This tight-knit community of maintenance professionals work around the clock to ensure if an A-10 is needed for close air support for American or allied ground forces, the Air Force’s premiere attack aircraft is ready.
“When I’m an old man and people ask me what I did with my life, I’ll tell them that I worked on not only the deadliest aircraft that we have ever used, but the most popular aircraft, too, with both the people that fix it and the people it’s saved,” said Sozzi.