Misawa Airman gets flight of a lifetime
It's a dry 80 degrees in the shaded flow-through. For a crew chief, this is a pretty desirable work environment. Not too hot and not too cold... but for Airman 1st Class Jaimie Smith, the weather doesn't matter. The long hours don't matter. To her, this is more than a just a job.
“I've always wanted to be a mechanic,” said Smith, a 14th Fighter Squadron crew chief. “It was really easy for me to decide to be a jet mechanic because I wanted to work on something I knew nothing about.”
Now, almost two years later, she's working with the 14th FS at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea.
“This temporary duty has been great,” Smith confesses, excitedly. “The leadership and everyone out here are great, we work together as a team and it makes the work fun and TDY enjoyable. I love coming to work every day.”
The 13th and 14th FS are TDY to Kunsan while the Misawa Air Base runway undergoes repair. During her time at there, Smith received the opportunity of a lifetime, to get a familiarization flight in the F-16 Fighting Falcon and experience the mission first-hand.
“Some of our maintainers are getting the chance to experience how physically challenging it is to fly,” said Major Matthew Sabraw, 13th Fighter Squadron assistant director of operations. “They're getting a chance to see what it's like to go out there and be eyewitnesses to how important the systems are that they work on.”
Smith's flight accomplished just that. Her entire recollection of the experience came from pure excitement and fervor.
“Seeing from their point of view, I really have a higher respect for this aircraft and the pilots,” Smith explains with a smile that could light a room. “The maneuverability and capability of this aircraft and our pilots is insane.”
Not only did she gain a higher appreciation for the 35th Fighter Wing's people and assets, the flight also bridged the gap between a maintainer's perspective and a pilot's.
“Going through the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape refresher training with them gave a little window into their world,” Smith said. “Once we took off... that was it! It brought the whole picture together of what we do and what they do on a daily basis.”
Regardless of whether she got a flight or not, the gratification lies in her work and its mission impact.
“It's rewarding to know that the work I put in... it goes out there and it shows in numbers and stats,” Smith stressed. “It shows the higher-ups that we're out here kicking butt.”
Smith's efforts don't fall on blind eyes, either. Her attention to detail in maintaining the F-16 is crucial when the 35th FW mission is so prominent in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
“I selected Smith because of her hard work and dedication,” says Staff Sgt. Michael Gianfrancesco, Smith's supervisor. “She stands out from her peers with her willingness to help others and teach them so they can become better at their job.”
Smith is the assistant dedicated crew chief for the 35th Fighter Wing's flagship and hopes to be a dedicated crew chief once she sews on Senior Airman.