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Captain cleans the bathroom: Says she can relate to, respect what Airmen do

Sometimes you have to be willing to step outside of your comfort zone, roll your sleeves down, put that face shield on, and get down to business, literally.  

Deployed Capt. Erin Walsh, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron officer in charge with the KC-10 Extenders, did just that when she willingly agreed to service the lavatory on one of the “heavies”.

Walsh, whose experience previously was limited to fighter aircraft that don’t have a lavatory, is not one to shy away from learning from her teammates.

With an extensive background working around fighter jets like the F-35A Lightning IIs, F-22A Raptors, F-15E Strike Eagles and F-16C/D Fighting Falcons, it’s easy to see why she could be outside of her comfort zone when it comes to working with the KC-10s. 

Walsh is currently deployed from Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia. Prior to that, she was assigned to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

Capt. Erin Walsh, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron officer in charge of the KC-10 Extenders, dons a protective suite before learning how to service the lavatory of an Extender at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, July 9, 2021. Walsh, whose experience previously was limited to fighter aircraft, is learning to service the Extender’s lavatory as a means to understand and appreciate what her maintainers go through to accomplish the mission. (Air Force photograph by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

“With almost eight years of experience working exclusively with fighter aircraft, I knew this deployment with the KC-10s was going to be a unique and exciting leadership challenge,” Walsh said.

However, Walsh was up for the feat, so she jumped right in to conduct the least glamorous maintenance job on the list!    

“The best way to lead a team is to gain an understanding and appreciation of what they do, and then do what you can in a leadership role to make their job easier,” she said.

That could mean making sure the team has ample time and equipment to accomplish the mission, or making changes to promote safety, job satisfaction or improve morale, she explained.

“Servicing the lavatory was a first time experience for me,” she said. “You have to experience some of the dirtier jobs to be able to relate to and respect what the Airmen go through every day.” 

For those who work with Walsh, it came as no surprise when she was selected as ADAB’s 2nd Quarter Company Grade Officer Award Winner for 2021.

“Captain Walsh has a tenacity to get after aircraft maintenance and take care of her Airmen,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ryan Flynn, superintendent, 380 EAMXS.

Capt. Erin Walsh, 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron officer in charge of the KC-10 Extenders, services the lavatory of an Extender at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, July 9, 2021. (Air Force photograph by Master Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

“She is always willing to step out and lead from the front,” he said. “It’s been awesome watching her get her hands dirty with the Extender maintainers!”

Maintainers love to see their leadership team out at the aircraft learning about the mission and what it takes to get the KC-10 in the air, Flynn explained.

Staff Sgt. Cody Dillon, aerospace maintenance craftsman, 380 EAMXS, was refreshed by Walsh’s attitude and had high praise for her after providing the hands-on training below the KC-10.

“If she was my troop, and she was confident, I would have no problem signing her off,” Dillon said. “It shows me she has interest in the real goings-on outside of what she hears from the troops and her office!” 

Walsh finished up by saying: “I love being out on the flight line with my people. Maintainers have the toughest job in the Air Force. I’m extremely proud to lead this team of KC-10 maintainers. It is an honor to serve with a group of such hard working and professional men and women. Extenders… here comes the BOOM!”
 
 
 

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