ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Long, wrench turning days, greasy, sweat-stained uniforms, and a passion for aircraft are just a few qualities maintainers from the 97th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron have in common.
Although the A-Team is comprised of more than 700 civilian maintainers, crew chiefs, and aircraft attendants, only 21 percent is female. In light of Women's History Month, a few warriors shared what it takes to be a woman in their career field.
Every year, maintainers from all three airframes help support more than 5,000 sorties and 23,000 flying hours for future mobility Airmen. From engine inspections to flight system checks, crew chiefs and aircraft mechanics ensure all aircraft at Altus AFB are safe and ready to fly at a moment's notice.
“If any KC-135 aircraft has any issues with its four engines or two auxiliary power units, I am responsible to troubleshoot the issue, repair, or replace parts or components, which at times can mean the entire engine,” said Jennifer Claverie, 97th AMXS KC-135 jet engine specialist. “Also, similar to the aircraft itself, the engines have hourly and monthly inspections that must be performed. We keep track of and stay up to date with these checks, to include engine runs and operation checks.”
Altus AFB is uniquely one of the few Air Force bases in the world that is equipped with an all civilian maintenance team. Although not enlisted, these Airmen perform the same work and duties as those in uniform and continue to successfully carry out Mobility’s Hometown mission.
“I like being part of the Air Force because I like knowing I am supporting those who are working to keep our country safe,” said Tara Pope, 97th AMXS C-17 crew chief. “I enjoy working on the A-Team here especially because of our unique mission. Being assigned to the C-17, I get to see and work with every single new loadmaster learning to support our country.”
Denise Staton, 97th AMXS KC-135 crew chief, has been serving at Altus for 14 years and was the first female dedicated crew chief to be a part of the A-Team. She explained that even being the minority gender in her career field, Staton feels like she has always fit in.
“I enjoy my job because serving our Air Force is a way personally to pay back for all the sacrifices,” said Staton. “I like knowing I can help provide quality aircraft for aircrews going on to fight global missions.”
With the training mission being executed daily, many crew chiefs and aircraft attendants have to work long, nightly hours to help keep aircrew in training safe. Jennifer Cortez, 97th AMXS C-17 aircraft attendant, explained that with the fast-paced mission at Altus, there is always something new for her to learn.
“I love my job, I truly love my job,” said Cortez. “I worked at an office job before I started this and it is a night and day difference. I get to meet new people and learn new things. There is not one day that is the same either because we are always doing something new and you never know what is going to happen next. It is never the same and that is what I love about my job.”
Throughout Women’s History Month, Airmen can be reminded of the work and dedication female warriors have provided for many years in supporting the world's greatest Air Force.
“I believe diversity is important within our Air Force because each person brings a different perspective to the job,” said Juilanne Martinez, 97th AMXS KC-135 crew chief. “Everybody brings something to the table and it seems in another way, sometimes diversity can troubleshoot problems, because when someone can't do something, we all help each other out to find our own, unique, way to execute it. It also allows for opportunity because everyone is an equal part of a bigger mission.”