When one thinks of the Air Force and its mission, the words pilots, jets, bombs and missiles may come to mind, but without the efforts of the maintainers at Luke Air Force Base, the jets wouldn’t fly and weapons wouldn’t be loaded.
To recognize the outstanding performance, achievements and professionalism of the maintenance Airmen and civilians who go above and beyond what is expected of them, the 56th Maintenance Group held its annual Maintenance Professional of the Year banquet March 8 in Hangar 915 on Luke Air Force Base with the theme of “A Tradition of Honor … A Legacy of Valor.”
The banquet began with the presentation of the colors by the Luke Honor Guard followed by the introductions of the distinguished leaders and guest speaker, Chief Master Sgt. David Staton, 2nd Air Force command chief and former 56th Fighter Wing command chief, a tribute to prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Thereafter, guests were excused to the buffet before Col. Victor Mora, 56th MXG commander, introduced Staton.
Staton began by telling of his experiences as a first sergeant and how, although he isn’t a maintainer, he can relate. He then told the story of a mechanic who helped build the engine of the first aircraft.
“Our legacy goes back to the Wright Brothers’ first flight, but has anyone heard of the name Charles Taylor?” Staton asked the crowd. “Taylor was a bicycle guy, who fixed bicycles for the Wright Brothers. The Wright Brothers were trying to figure out how to get an engine built that would work on their first airplane and Taylor, who was mechanically inclined, built that first engine and that’s where you as maintainers come from. You guys do more than just fix aircraft, you are professional Airmen first. There is a lot of discipline and attention to detail that comes with being a maintainer, and I applaud you for that.”
Staton closed by thanking the crowd.
“It’s an honor, it’s a privilege, I am blessed to be in your presence,” he said. “I’m very proud to be a Thunderbolt and I’ll always be one, and thank you for letting me come and speak at this banquet.”
Once Staton exited the stage, the 2013 winners were announced from the junior enlisted core to NCOs, officers and civilians.
For Master Sgt. William Jennings, 308th Aircraft Maintenance Unit lead production superintendent, who won under the senior NCO maintenance professional category, it’s all about team work.
“It feels unbelievable that I won this award, but I can’t take full credit for winning it,” Jennings said. “It took the efforts of all the personnel I work with. What motivates me to do my job are the amazing mentors in my past that have provided me with the words of, ‘Failure is not an option, success is the only option.’ Every single day I strive to do the best I can and the same goes for my people.”
Similarly, Airman 1st Class Robert Shilander, 56th AMXS load crew member and armament technician of the year, is thankful to have won.
“I am relieved I won this award,” he said. “I’ve been up for a lot of awards but didn’t win, so this means a lot to me. The key to my success has been going into work with a good attitude and doing the best I could do with what my superiors ask of me. If I were to give words of advice to an Airman it’d be, ‘find something about your job that you love to do and then latch onto it.’”