End of an era: Bradley retires after 10 years as A-TEAM director

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Eugene Bird
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
After 41 years of service in the military and leading the A-TEAM since its inception 10 years ago, Michael Bradley, director of the 97th Maintenance Directorate, will retire.

Role of civilians 

"Civil service has changed a lot in the last ten years," said the aircraft maintenance management veteran." 

"I believe that the Department of Defense has come to realize civilians in the Air Force are partners in the military." 

"The military have certain strengths; they obviously get prepared for the battlefield and fight wars. The civilians have certain strengths, too; we're the ones that stay behind fixing the airplanes and supporting them. It's always been a problem to me that the military has additional duties - food service, grounds maintenance. I think the military is doing the right thing by contracting out those services and allowing the military to do their jobs. You want to get the most you can out of the extremely dedicated military," said Bradley. 

"I think there is a great role for the civil service and contractors, and we'll see more and more of them."

A-TEAM is founded 

"When I came in to interview for this job in April 1996, I flew in on the first C-17 to be delivered from Charleston, that was quite an honor. The A-TEAM started under the Logistics Group, so I didn't report directly to the wing commander. I've had a really good relationship with all the commanders we've had." 

"But for the last four years, since we've become a maintenance group equivalent, I have reported directly to the wing commander. The relationship has always been good, and I had frequent contact with them as the organization grew," said Mr. Bradley.

An Air Force convinced 

"We're still here. There was a lot of [initial] resistance to civilians coming in and taking over maintenance, but we overcame it with the support of a lot of great wing commanders we've had over the past ten years. We were able to turn around the thinking ... whether civilians could do the job," Bradley recalls. 

"I think we finally convinced the Air Force that this is the right thing to do operationally," he said.

Handling big changes
"Air Education and Training Command has a number of bases with civilian maintainers. We weren't the first one, but we are the largest one. And we've been in transition ever since we started. When we first started, the active duty still maintained the C-17's - they were just bringing those on board. We took over the C-5's, C-141's and the tankers. Then, after about five years, they converted those military positions to A-TEAM positions."
"Of course, the C-141's were retired, hand-in-hand with our takeover of the C-17 maintenance. That worked out well because we could move those C-141 folks to the C-17 and not lose anyone in a force reduction."
"The departure of the C-5 from Altus is another evolution, and I've seen many evolutions in my 41 years. We'll overcome it. By January, we'll have our 15th C-17. We've taken great pains to make sure that nobody loses a job over the C-5 drawdown," said Bradley.

What it takes
"Being a maintenance officer is being a manager. You don't necessarily know all the nuts and bolts of aircraft maintenance. I can't go out there and change an engine. If I had [instructions] right in front of me, I could get it done. But my job has always been managing the people." 

"Managing is an art. You have to understand people, understand their needs and understand the mission. There are two concepts that I've always tried to live up to: integrity and mutual respect. Those are extremely important," he said. 

"It's important for a good officer or NCO to have character, to be able to trust them. Their word is law. If somebody tells me something, I expect it to be true. If I find out it's not, then we have a problem. I've tried to build that in the culture here," said Bradley. 

"I don't think anyone can be overwhelmed with their accomplishments when you think about the grand scheme of things. We're only here for a short period of time, and the more good you can do, the more your life means. I'm religious, and I believe whatever talents we're given, we should do the best we can with them," he said.

Air Force and Vietnam 

"I graduated from college in 1964. As an entering freshman, I got in line for the Army ROTC. I stood there about 30 minutes, and the line didn't move at all, so I left it." 

"But when I graduated, the war was intensifying in Vietnam. I didn't have any big plans for what I wanted to do with my life, so I decided to go down to the recruiter and see if I could get in the Air Force. I ended up going through Officer Training School in 1965 and getting my commission. Afterward, I was assigned to aircraft maintenance." 

"After I had been in Vietnam for four or five weeks in 1968, at Tan Son Nhut Air Base [pronounced TAHN-sun-NOOT], the Tet Offensive started. It was a big operation by the Viet Cong." 

"They attempted to overrun Tan Son Nhut, but luckily for us we had some really great Army troops protecting the perimeter. The siege went on for a couple of weeks, until we finally got everything under control. It was very exciting," he said. 

"I worked on the flight line at Norton Air Force Base, Calif.; we were still flying a lot of C-141 missions to Vietnam, which lasted until 1975. I joined the Reserve unit there and met my wife at Norton AFB. I had a lot of good friends there. The rest is history. We've been successful, and I've got a lot of great memories to look back on."