by Staff Sgt. Stephanie Mancha
23d Moody Air Force Base Public Affairs
7/20/2012 - NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev -- Turning wrenches and checking the fluids on an A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft might not be a dream job for some women, but one 23d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit crew chief faces the challenge head on.
Growing up with four brothers, U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Grace Wheeler feels at home working hand-in-hand with mostly male crew chiefs on the flight line. After joining Air Force a little over a year ago, Wheeler now calls Moody Air Force Base, Ga., home. Moody being her first base, she has gained a lot of experience and training with the A-10s. In the past seven months, she has launched more than 100 A-10 sorties and performed numerous of aircraft inspections.
Wheeler, one of two female crew chiefs in the unit, is attending Red Flag 12-4 exercise, two weeks of air combat training, which simulates a wartime environment for military units at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. As an A-10 crew chief at Red Flag, Wheeler must inspect the A-10s before and after a missions at the nearby Nevada Test and Training Range. She typically works up to nine hours per day, launching at least one sortie per day.
Never having been deployed, she said she is looking forward to gaining more experience and training from this exercise. She hopes Red Flag will prepare her for future deployments and give her some insights on what to expect in a deployed environment.
There are 39 other crew chiefs from Moody participating in Red Flag -- all having a mission and a number of sorties to launch.
While stationed at Moody, Wheeler has learned a lot from her Air Force brothers. With no maintenance background and not knowing the difference between wrenches and hex tools, being a crew chief began as a challenge for her. Excited to take on the challenge, Wheeler said she is eager to learn about the A-10 Thunderbolt II and all of the maintenance that comes along with being an crew chief.
"When I joined the Air Force I wanted something that would be challenging; something that I've never done before," she said.
Although being a crew chief was sought as a challenge for the Valencia, Calif., native, she is now able to perform pre-flight, through-flight and post-flight inspections and recover A-10s on her own. The 27 year old completed her career development courses quickly and is on her way to receiving her five-level certification.
"Wheeler can hold her own when it comes to mechanics," says U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Nicholas Nelson, 23d AMXS, 74th AMU A-10 crew chief. "She's a top Airman with a great work ethic. She's always the first one out of the truck ready to work and is the first one to volunteer for any task, even if it's taking out the trash."
Overall, Wheeler said she enjoys being a crew chief and working on the A-10 is a fun job.
"I never wake up not wanting to come to work," she said. "I get along with everyone and I enjoy working with the guys; it's better than working with a bunch of girls. It's like having 37 brothers," Wheeler joked. "Every day I learn something new, even if I'm only watching."
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Grace Wheeler, a crew chief with the 23d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 74th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, checks the tail of an A-10C Thunderbolt II during a post-flight inspection at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., July 16,2012. The 23d AMXS/74th AMU is deployed to Nellis in support of the Red Flag 12-4 exercise, which runs July 16-27, 2012. Fourteen A-10s are deployed to Nellis from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., along with more than 200 aircrew, maintainers and support personnel. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Stephanie Mancha) Hi-res
Note: Pictured is A-10C 78-0697 from the 74th Fighter Squadron.
Source (including 4 photos)
Comment from Joachim Jacob, Warthog News Editor: Special thanks to Staff Sgt. Stephanie Mancha, 23rd Wing Public Affairs, for her very nice and sensitive news article about Airman 1st Class Grace Wheeler! Anybody who knows how many female A-10C pilots and crew chiefs currently are on duty (Active, Reserve, Air National Guard)? It should be very interesting to publish some more about these "Hog Girls"...