Second-generation Airman helps fifth-gen fighter reach milestone

  • Published
  • 33d Fighter Wing Public Affairs

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – A student in the 359th Training Squadron's F-35 maintenance training program made history recently and has his eyes set even higher in the future.

Airman 1st Class Benjamin Missel became the 9,000th F-35 maintainer from the training program when he graduated on March 13, 2020. The 359th TRS falls under the 82nd Training Group at Sheppard AFB, Texas.

Following graduation, Missel reported to Luke AFB, Arizona, for follow-on training. Missel is an Air Force Reservist assigned to Hill AFB, Utah.

“We’re so proud of the work done by the maintainers at the Academic Training Center,” said Chief Master Sgt. Alex Morgan, 33rd Fighter Wing command chief. “This milestone is really exciting for us. These Airmen are the future of the F-35 program that ultimately deliver a diverse and lethal capability not just to the Air Force but to the joint force.”

After growing up around the Air Force at Columbus AFB, Mississippi, Missel followed his father’s example and enlisted.

“I always had the military on my radar, but wasn’t sure which route I should pursue,” he said. “I chose the maintenance career field because I wanted to be around aircraft and learn more about the pilot community.”

He plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree at Utah State University while stationed at Hill AFB. Despite his strong love for maintenance, he admits he wants to shift his priorities to flying and go to pilot training in the future.

“Spending time around the F-35 has been pretty sweet,” Missel said. “It’s making me think about being a fighter pilot more and more.”

When asked what he’s looking forward to about Utah, he said he’s excited to be closer to home and in-depth learning on the F-35 mission.

“I can’t wait to put everything I’ve learned to use and be part of an operational squadron,” Missel said.

Maintainers for the F-35 maintain a high level of technical expertise because of the aircraft’s complex computing system. At the 33rd FW, training for students rotates between classroom instruction and training devices. The training can range from one day to four-and-a-half months depending on the student’s specific job assignment.