MINOT AIR FORCE BASE It takes two separate crews with wildly different responsibilities to successfully launch a jet. The maintenance crew on the ground ensures the aircraft is ready to go, while the aircrew is responsible for getting the jet off the ground and functioning safely while in the air.
Although the two crews have very different jobs, Staff Sgt. John M. Silva, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, has found that having a strong relationship with his aircrew makes the job more meaningful.
"I want to build unity with our aircrew and crew chiefs," Silva said. "It allows both crews to see both sides of the world."
Staff Sgt. John Silva, second from the left, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, poses in front of the aircraft assigned to him with a fellow crew chief and members of the aircrew at Minot Air Force Base, Jan. 10, shown in this photo by Airman 1st Class Apryl Hall. Through working cooperatively with the aircrew, Silva strives to strengthen the bond between maintenance and air crews.
Since he was assigned his B-52H Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base over two years ago, Silva has taken many strides in bridging the gap between the two crews, said Silva. While most teams focus on their own responsibilities and keep their work separate, Silva takes the time to include his aircrew in whatever he may be working on and even invites them to participate in shop functions.
"I just take the consideration to get the pilots and aircrew involved in things," Silva said. "I want to show the significance of the aircrew and maintenance crew all working together."
Recently, Silva invited his pilot, co-pilot and navigator to an aircraft wash. Not only were the members of the aircrew able to see how much work goes into a wash, but they also took the time to interact with airmen in the maintenance crew.
"The appreciation factor is the biggest thing," said Capt. Joseph Cangealose, 69th Bomb Squadron pilot. "Knowing what they do on a daily basis to make these jets fly for us is incredible."
Understanding and appreciating what their counterparts do is only a part of why Silva continues to promote a friendly working relationship, he said. More importantly, it takes away some of the stress involved in launching a jet.
Capt. Margaret Ingerslew, 69th Bomb Squadron navigator, said she has gained so much respect for what her maintenance crew does, and often looks for ways to express that to them. Not only has she participated in aircraft servicing like packing drag parachutes with the maintenance crew, but she also started taking them hand warmers during winter launches to let them know they are valued.
"I hope they know we appreciate them!" Ingerslew said with a smile. "We love what we're learning, and we love being able to tie it all together to see how we interact with each other."
Although not all maintenance teams work with their aircrews the way Silva's does, it is not easily overlooked by other aircrews at Minot AFB, Ingerslew added.
"We really lucked out as a crew, having Staff Sgt. Silva as a crew chief," Ingerslew said. "I know a lot of other crews are jealous of us getting to come out and see what our crew chiefs are doing and seeing the new projects they have going."
Silva's dedication to having a strong bond between his maintenance and aircrew has already produced several opportunities for both crews to learn new things and gain new perspectives within the big picture of their jobs, said Ingerslew. Silva's hard work has not slowed.
"It just seems like every idea he comes up with that we're 'oohing' and 'awing' over, he's got another one lined up right behind it," Ingerslew said. "We have nothing but great things to say about him, and we've asked to help him with whatever we can."
For Silva, Cangealose, Ingerslew and the rest of the team, working as one unit has certainly been advantageous.
"We've got maintainers and operators, and they're just two separate worlds," Ingerslew said. "To tie the two together is just 100 percent good."