The United States Air Force’s commitment to develop partner nation air forces is sometimes accomplished one officer at a time, and the Arizona Air National Guard is offering one of its best assets to the exchange program—maintenance experience.
At the 162nd Wing located at the Tucson International Airport, Chilean air force exchange officer Capt. Andrea Garcia, bid farewell to F-16 maintainers after serving two years working side-by-side as part of the 12th Air Force Personnel Exchange Program.
Garcia served as a maintenance officer, or ‘engineer,’ in her nation’s air force since 2004. In addition to working as a liaison officer at the International Air & Space Fair (FIDAE), one of the largest international trade and air shows in the world, she worked on support aircraft and eventually the multirole F-16 Fighting Falcon.
After working with the F-16 for five years, Garcia accepted an assignment to leave everything she knew in Chile and move to Tucson, Arizona.
“I wanted to come and see how maintenance was done here,” she said. “I was eager to work with a group that has so much experience on the F-16.”
During her exchange, she rotated through several distinct maintenance roles, spending up to six months in each. She was exposed to quality assurance, maintenance operations, flight line and back shops. She also served as officer in charge of the 195th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, responsible for 30 jets and a compliment of various maintenance specialties.
“She was very proactive, learning our procedures and asking why we did things a certain way,” said Chief Master Sgt. Terry Oliver, 195th AMU Superintendent. “She took initiative and effort to be involved as much as possible in all areas and aspects of maintenance within the 195th and the whole maintenance group.”
Garcia said, she was excited to be part of the 162nd team.
“I never felt lost here,” said Garcia. “The people, helped me from the moment I got here. They helped me buy a car and get used to the base and processes.”
Not only did the people teach her processes and practices to improve her maintenance skills, but she too left a mark on the way maintenance is done at the 162nd.
“She has impacted operations here in every way, her abilities and work ethic are outstanding,” said Col. Jeffrey Butler the 162nd Maintenance Group commander. “She worked a full circle tour in maintenance and everyone has enjoyed her talent, she made a positive impression everywhere she went.”
After two years fully immersed in the maintenance practices of the 162nd Wing, Garcia bid farewell to her colleagues and friends here on February 7 and officially left Tucson, Arizona on March 1, 2017.
“I believe I have been working with the best experienced F-16 maintainers in the world and I am truly grateful for this opportunity,” she said during an informal farewell ceremony. “I know this experience has made an impact on my career and I hope that I have made an impact on people here as well.”