DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) --
(This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series. These stories focus on individual Airmen, highlighting their Air Force story.)
Four FU-101 jet engines sucked in a whirlwind of air and screamed to life as the pilot powered up the engines of a B-1B Lancer. The aircraft then taxied down the runway before taking off, the flames from the afterburner visible against the evening sky. For some, the aircraft taking off every day has become routine, but for the maintainers that put them there it's a different story.
The Air Force employs thousands of aircraft maintainers to perform the upkeep on all of its different airframes--all of them trained by the 82nd Training Wing at Sheppard AFB, Texas. It's up to maintainers like Senior Airman Jason Stach, a B-1B aircraft technician from the 28th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, to keep the Lancer mission ready.
"The B-1 is an amazing jet that can carry the largest and most versatile payload of any other American bomber," Stach said. "Knowing that I am directly responsible for getting an aircraft of that caliber airborne and maintained is a pretty awesome feeling."
Growing up, Stach, from Jasper, Florida, felt he needed to do something more with his life; he wanted to make a difference, so he decided to join the Air Force.
"I joined the Air Force because I wanted to do something important," Stach said. "My dad and brother both recommended the Air Force over the other branches because they wanted the best thing possible for me. I also wanted to be as close to aircraft as I could get, so I wanted a job in aircraft maintenance. Originally, my plans were to be a crew chief for one of the cargo airframes, but before I left for basic training I found out the B-1 maintenance field really needed personnel, so I decided to go where I could be of the most help to the Air Force."
After deciding that B-1 maintenance was what he wanted to do, Stach spent eight weeks at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, for basic military training and then attend his technical school at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas.
"Basic training wasn't what I expected, but it went by pretty quickly," Stach said. "My tech school was four months long, though. During the first two months I learned basic aircraft and B-1 specific knowledge. The last half of the school was on-the-job training here at Dyess. After I graduated tech school, I just coincidentally got orders to come back here."
A huge amount of technical knowledge and skill is required to keep the technologically advanced, yet 30-year-old bomber running at peak performance. The combination of classroom and hands-on training Stach and others in his career field receive makes all that possible.
"I had to learn how the technical orders, which are basically repair manuals, are broken down," Stach said. "They show you how to safely and correctly do various jobs and repairs on aircraft. You also learn basic aircraft maintenance, tools and parts name and a lot of safety guidelines."
All that training was then put to use as soon as Stach stepped foot on the Dyess flightline for the first time as an operational B-1 aircraft technician in March 2013.
"That first day I stepped onto the flight line was amazing," he said. "The feeling was totally indescribable. You really feel like you're part of the mission and that what you're doing every day is making a difference. The best part is that that exact feeling never goes away."
As with many maintainers, Stach's working hours are less than consistent. But even through day and night, rain or shine, the technological and mechanical prowess of the B-1 are not lost on Stach, and he continues to be impressed with the aircraft.
"The long days and nights, and even the stress, are totally worth it," he said. "There aren't a lot of people out there that can say they've helped launch a B-1B Lancer to support our troops and defeat our adversaries overseas.”