Female crew chief: family and the KC-135

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kayla Christenson
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

Julianne Martinez walks around her dedicated KC-135 Stratotanker, searching for any loose items or damaged parts while ensuring gears are oiled. As she sprays the oil onto a rag to wipe down the landing gear, her left arm shows several tattooed flowers. One birth flower for each of her nephews and nieces, her mom and a butterfly for her little sister that passed away.

Family means a lot to Martinez - a fact that weighed heavily on her when she had to consider moving away from Altus to find a job. When she was offered an opportunity at Altus Air Force Base, she did not have to make that choice, she was able to stay close to home and have a fulfilling career.

For five years now, Martinez has served as a member of the 97th Maintenance Group, one of only two women to do so. She started her career at the 97th MXG in 2018 as an assisted crew chief. Over the next four years, she was promoted several times, eventually reaching crew chief, the equivalent to a captain. As a crew chief, she is dedicated to and responsible for all maintenance on one of Altus’ KC-135s.

“I feel very proud,” said Martinez. “Becoming a crew chief in only four years time and being a female, it was a huge accomplishment.”

Martinez was born and raised in Altus. She explained that her job at Altus AFB has provided her the opportunity to stay close to family.

“My family is very important to me,” she said. “I wanted to stay in Altus to be close to them, but I could not find a good job that did not require expensive schooling. Then I found this job and I haven’t looked back.”

Little did Martinez know, her family would grow by many when she joined the civilian force at the 97th MXG.

“The people here are like family,” said Martinez. “I can go to them about anything and they could do the same. It is a very close group that makes the job more fun.”

Martinez said her goal as a crew chief is to spread the word about the opportunities in the 97th MXG and the “Grow Your Own Mechanic” internship program, which provides schooling for new Altus AFB aircraft mechanics.

“My main goal is to get other people, especially local kids, to come work for us,” she said. “A personal goal of mine is to become a supervisor eventually.”

Supporting the mission, keeping aircraft flying and aircrew safe are Martinez’s main priorities when maintaining her dedicated KC-135.

“We are not just looking out for the jet, we are also looking out for our wingman just like any other Airman,” she said. “Being as safe as possible and getting the jet back up in the sky is a great feeling.”