History was made when Detachment 12, 372nd Training Squadron graduated its last class of mission-ready Airmen at Luke Air Force Base.
Since the MRA program’s conception in 1994, the combined total of students graduated is 11,840.
“Every F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief has gone through our program for the last 21 years,” said Master Sgt. Paul Engram, 372nd TRS, Det. 12 MRA NCO in charge. “After graduation, the crew chiefs will be going to bases around the world.”
Students begin their journey to become an F-16 crew chief after Basic Military Training when they arrive at Sheppard AFB, Texas, for technical school. Thereafter, they are sent to Luke to complete the rest of their training.
For one newly graduated F-16 crew chief, completing his training as part of the last graduating class was memorable.
“It feels great to be a part of the last graduating class,” said Airman 1st Class Tery Miller, 372nd TRS F-16 crew chief. “Being that I came in with zero mechanical experience, I feel very prepared because they taught me how to properly use tools and work on the aircraft.”
Throughout the program, students learn how to service an aircraft tire, service oil, remove and replace hydraulic filters, troubleshoot landing gear and more.
“It’s a pretty fast-paced course in that there are only three classroom days,” Engram said. “One of the days is orientation then another is learning how to do liquid oxygen bottle removal and lastly, graduation. Other than that, everything we do is hands-on.”
During the graduation ceremony, Lt. Col. Kenneth Shinn, 372nd TRS commander, shared a few words with graduates and family members.
“I am proud of you and what you’ve accomplished up to this point,” Shinn said. “I am proud of what you will do and become. I’m honored and feel privileged to be on the same team. So friends, family, fellow Airmen, and crew chiefs, when you see an F-16 in the air, remember who put it there. While we all have different roles for fulfilling this profession, it is the role of the crew chief to put that awesome combat capability into action. It is the role of crew chief to deliver safe and reliable aircraft to make it happen. It is the role of the crew chief to get that jet overhead.”
One F-16 crew chief instructor commented on being a part of the final class of the program.
“It’s a unique privilege to be able to help finish off the MRA program here at Luke,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeffery Jones, 372nd TRS F-16 crew chief instructor. “It’s also a stepping stone to transitioning the program to Holloman.”
For Engram, who has gone through the program himself, the graduation is sentimental.
“It’s a bittersweet moment having this be our last class taught here at Luke, since I went through this course as an F-16 crew chief in 1995,” he said. “But at the same time, I understand that in the Air Force we’re constantly changing, and we’re here to do a job. We’ll be moving the program to Holloman.”
Due to F-16 aircraft availability at Luke, the F-16 MRA program is being moved to Holloman AFB, New Mexico. This will allow room for the F-35 program to come in. The training for F-35 Lightning II crew chiefs is slated to begin in 2017.