Altus AFB, local community partner to grow their own mechanics

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kenneth W. Norman
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Altus is known for its agricultural community and an Air Force base. Together they are not only growing crops, they are growing mechanics through the Grow Your Own Mechanic program.

The GYOM program is an aircraft maintenance technician internship program. It was developed in 1999 under the Student Education Employment Plan in cooperation with the Southwest Technology Center's Aviation and Aerospace program providing skilled, aerospace jobs to the local area.

"We were one of the first programs in the Air Force to take advantage of the Student Education and Employment Program," said Michael Prater, 97th Maintenance Directorate resource management flight chief.

The SWTC, located in the City of Altus, provides the initial aircraft technical training courses in airframe and aircraft engine skills to the mechanic candidates. From there, the 97th MX provides hands-on experience, building aircraft mechanics. After successful program completion, graduates may have an opportunity for employment as a Department of Defense employee at Altus AFB.

"We identify the students with an end target position in the 97th MX, so that they can grow from their trainee-apprenticeship program all the way through to the end at that same position," Prater said.

More than 161 Grow Your Own Mechanic candidates have been hired between 1999 and 2012, 93 of which are still active. For one of those candidates, this program has made his dreams come true.

"I think it is a great opportunity," said Bernabe Mejorado Jr., 97th MX work leader. "Coming from where I'm from it was just a dream to be able to work on planes. Now it is a dream come true for me."

Mejorado first came to Altus to work in the cotton fields and then earned a job in a meat processing plant, working full-time while completing the GYOM program.

"When I was working in the fields, there was a military plane that flew by us and I was like 'there goes my plane' and my cousin told me 'one-day man.'" Mejorado said. "So when I first started working on the planes it was beautiful for me."

The 97th MX is currently hiring mechanics through the GYOM program, but the process is very selective and depends on job vacancy.

"We are hiring, but we are being very selective of our hiring processes," Prater said. "We are trying to hire the very best for the future."

For more information about the program, call Michael Prater at 481-6337.