Chief Master Sgt. Jason Howard promotes while in MQ-9 maintenance training

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt Lauren Niemi
  • 82 TRW Public Affairs

Chief Master Sergeant Jason Howard, from the 147th Operations Group in Houston, Texas, received his eighth stripe while in MQ-9 maintenance training on Friday, August 4th, 2023 at Sheppard Air Force Base.  


Howard is an Active Guard Reservist of the Texas Air National Guard, and is from Houston, Texas. While he recently achieved 20 years active duty last month, his total time with the Guard spans over 26 years, eleven years in maintenance and 15 years as a MQ1-B and MQ-9 Sensor Operator where he accumulated over 2500 flight hours.   


Howard’s Air Force journey started in 1992, when he initially enlisted as an Aerospace Ground Mechanic, working on fighters such as the F-111 and F-16 at bases around the world to include such as Royal Air Force Station Upper Heyford and Hurlburt Field. He left the Air Force in 1996 in order to go back to school, but couldn’t stay away for long. 


While taking classes in Houston, Howard listened to a master sergeant talk about his job as a hydraulics troop for the F-16 as a member of the Air National Guard, and he was intrigued. Howard became a full-time federal technician for the Texas Air National Guard in late 2000, once again as an AGE mechanic. Federal technicians are federal civilian employees who hold a dual status as a member of the Guard. He later became an Active Guard Reservist in 2001.  


Due to the Base Closure and Realignment Act, his unit’s air frame changed from the F-16 to the MQ1-B Predator. He took it as an opportunity to learn something new and retrained as an remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) sensor operator.  


As many of the maintenance chiefs in his unit started to retire, Howard realized his heart was still with the maintenance community. In order to return to that world, he would have to go back to technical training, something he hadn't done in almost 30 years.  


“It's a lot different when I went through,” said Howard, “I was the young intimidated airman jumping out of the way of senior NCOs and standing by, versus now, I remember the first time I walked into this building and five airmen jumped aside. I was like, ‘What are you doing? I’m not an officer!’”.


Despite the differences, Chief Howard is happy to experience the modernized training, including the ability to proficiency advance, shortening his total time in training of 64 days by roughly a month. However, Howard’s favorite part of returning to technical training is seeing the airmen in his class around him grow and develop as both technicians and leaders.  


“I’m glad I had the opportunity to come here and kind of go back through this,” he said. “It’s a different perspective. It was nice to see the new generation coming in first hand at tech school. When you get older, you always worry about the next generation and all their potential defects, but these kids are great! I'm thoroughly impressed with the class of airmen we have coming in. I think we're doing good. I think we have a bright future."