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Maintaining the mission: Airmen step into the boots of crew chiefs

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron sits in a hardened aircraft shelter at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. The F-16 is a highly maneuverable multi-role fighter aircraft used to support Spangdahlem's mission of airpower deterrence and readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron sits in a hardened aircraft shelter at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. The F-16 is a highly maneuverable multi-role fighter aircraft used to support Spangdahlem's mission of airpower deterrence and readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, left, and Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, right, walk to the flightline at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie shadowed Pagan as part of the 52nd AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, left, and Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, right, walk to the flightline at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie shadowed Pagan as part of the 52nd AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, observes an aircraft inspection at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie volunteered for the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program to obtain a better understanding of what maintainers do. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, observes an aircraft inspection at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie volunteered for the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program to obtain a better understanding of what maintainers do. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shaun Bellamy, 470th Air Base Squadron commander, right, speaks with Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, left, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie, who had never been on a flightline before, volunteered to shadow a crew chief for a day to gain a better understanding of what maintainers do. Her day consisted of aircraft inspections, launching and recovering jets, and interacting with pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Shaun Bellamy, 470th Air Base Squadron commander, right, speaks with Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, left, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie, who had never been on a flightline before, volunteered to shadow a crew chief for a day to gain a better understanding of what maintainers do. Her day consisted of aircraft inspections, launching and recovering jets, and interacting with pilots. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, watches an F-16 Fighting Falcon taxi at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie volunteered to participate in the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program for a better understanding of flightline operations. She had never been on a flightline or near fighter jets before this opportunity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, watches an F-16 Fighting Falcon taxi at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie volunteered to participate in the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program for a better understanding of flightline operations. She had never been on a flightline or near fighter jets before this opportunity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gille, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, right, and Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, left, observe a final F-16 Fighting Falcon inspection at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie shadowed Pagan for his entire shift as part of the 52nd AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program. The program is open to all Airmen, but encourages staff sergeants and below to participate for a better understanding of flightline operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gille, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, right, and Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, left, observe a final F-16 Fighting Falcon inspection at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie shadowed Pagan for his entire shift as part of the 52nd AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program. The program is open to all Airmen, but encourages staff sergeants and below to participate for a better understanding of flightline operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, moves a light-all at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie volunteered to work on the flightline as part of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program. The program helps Airmen unfamiliar with flightline operations understand their tie to Spangdahlem's mission of airpower deterrence and readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, moves a light-all at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie volunteered to work on the flightline as part of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program. The program helps Airmen unfamiliar with flightline operations understand their tie to Spangdahlem's mission of airpower deterrence and readiness. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, holds a headset at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie volunteered to work on the flightline as part of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program. She helped with the launch and recovery of jets and used the headset to observe how pilots and crew chiefs communicate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, holds a headset at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie volunteered to work on the flightline as part of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program. She helped with the launch and recovery of jets and used the headset to observe how pilots and crew chiefs communicate. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, inspects an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie participated in the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's new Crew Chief for a Day program which invites Airmen to experience working a day on the flightline. The weekly program launched in March 2019, and is scheduled to be a year-round event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, inspects an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie participated in the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron's new Crew Chief for a Day program which invites Airmen to experience working a day on the flightline. The weekly program launched in March 2019, and is scheduled to be a year-round event. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, left, observes Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, right, as he inspects F-16 Fighting Falcon landing gear at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie, who had never been on a flightline before, volunteered for the 52nd AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program. She learned how inspections are performed and how to prepare an aircraft for launch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, left, observes Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, right, as he inspects F-16 Fighting Falcon landing gear at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie, who had never been on a flightline before, volunteered for the 52nd AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program. She learned how inspections are performed and how to prepare an aircraft for launch. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, center, learns how to inspect an aircraft from Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, right, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. The AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program allows Airmen to experience flightline operations. Gillie, who had never been on a flightline before, participated to gain a better understanding of the work maintainers perform. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, center, learns how to inspect an aircraft from Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, right, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. The AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program allows Airmen to experience flightline operations. Gillie, who had never been on a flightline before, participated to gain a better understanding of the work maintainers perform. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, right, and Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, left, observe a F-16 Fighting Falcon landing gear inspection at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie's participation was part of the 52nd AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program. The program gives Airmen that don't work on the flightline a bigger picture of the 52nd Fighter Wing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, right, and Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant dedicated crew chief, left, observe a F-16 Fighting Falcon landing gear inspection at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie's participation was part of the 52nd AMXS Crew Chief for a Day program. The program gives Airmen that don't work on the flightline a bigger picture of the 52nd Fighter Wing mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, winds up a cable at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie worked on the flightline as part of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program. Gillie observed and helped with the launch and recovery of aircraft, inspections, and learned how maintainers interact with pilots. The new, weekly program is designed to give Airmen an understanding of flightline operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)
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U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie, 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator, winds up a cable at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 3, 2019. Gillie worked on the flightline as part of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Crew Chief for a Day program. Gillie observed and helped with the launch and recovery of aircraft, inspections, and learned how maintainers interact with pilots. The new, weekly program is designed to give Airmen an understanding of flightline operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valerie Seelye)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --

Like many U.S. Air Force Airmen, Staff Sgt. Stephanie Gillie had never stepped foot on a flightline. Her job never gave her a reason to, as she was previously stationed at the Air Force Academy and currently works on the support side of base, here.

But on April 3, 2019, the 52nd Security Forces Squadron investigator helped with the launch and recovery of F-16 Fighting Falcons. Her participation was part of the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron’s new Crew Chief for a Day program, which allows military members the opportunity to experience what maintainers encounter on a daily basis.

Gillie shadowed Senior Airman Jose Pagan, 52nd AMXS assistant dedicated crew chief. They met for roll call at noon and worked until after dark. The day consisted of aircraft inspections, launching and recovering jets, and interacting with pilots.

Getting to see all the work that goes into launching aircraft, and working with those who directly support the mission, was eye-opening, said Gillie, who volunteered for the program.

 “It was neat to see all those people work together so fluidly to get everything to work,” Gillie said. “It was like watching a well-oiled machine.”

Gillie took the opportunity to learn as much as possible from Pagan. But the fast-paced work introduced challenges she was not used to.

“If I were to work in that career field,” Gillie said, “it would honestly be very challenging for me. I think it’s more so at the pace they move. And it’s very black and white — not that they don’t have any creativity, but they’re strict as far as following everything to the tee.”

However, Pagan and other maintainers work hard and seem to have a passion for their job, Gillie said.

“Going to a different squadron and actually seeing what they do, and how hard they work, gives you an open mind and better understanding,” Gillie said.

And that is what the program was designed to do.

“Having Airmen come out and get the perspective of crew chiefs, work out in the elements, and get their hands dirty — I think they’ll understand what we deal with day-to-day,” said Master Sgt. Matthew Dunkle, 52nd AMXS section chief.

The program, which launched in March 2019, takes place Wednesdays and is scheduled to be a year-round opportunity, Dunkle said. It is open to all Airmen, but targeted to staff sergeants and below.

“I hope that maybe they’ll empathize the hours we work out here,” Dunkle said. “A lot of times it is very difficult to get away. Maintainers don’t have normal lunch breaks, they just have to work with the flying schedule.”

Giving Airmen this opportunity helps them understand their tie to Spangdahlem’s mission of airpower deterrence and readiness.

“It ties into the mission by giving people that don’t work on the flightline a bigger picture of the mission the 52nd Fighter Wing actually performs,” Dunkle said.

Gillie agreed.

“A lot of the time we don’t understand why we do what we do,” Gillie said. “But getting to see the people that work on the flightline, and working directly to get the mission done, helped me realize what I’m protecting and how important it is.”

Gillie recommended the program to everyone, especially to younger Airmen unfamiliar with flightline operations.

“This program was definitely an eye-opening experience,” Gillie said. “It can be for everybody. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”