Enabling the future while propelling the present

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jerri Addison, a 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, empties a bucket of fuel into a tank Nov. 22, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Addison was emptying an F-16 Fighting Falcon fuel tank for maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Eric M. Fisher)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jerri Addison, a 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, empties a bucket of fuel into a tank Nov. 22, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. Addison was emptying an F-16 Fighting Falcon fuel tank for maintenance. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Eric M. Fisher)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jerri Addison, a 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, watches fuel empty from an F-16 Fighting Falcon fuel tank into a bucket Nov. 22, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base Alaska. The fuel was emptied into buckets and moved to another tank to be reused later. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Eric M. Fisher)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jerri Addison, a 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, watches fuel empty from an F-16 Fighting Falcon fuel tank into a bucket Nov. 22, 2016, at Eielson Air Force Base Alaska. The fuel was emptied into buckets and moved to another tank to be reused later. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Eric M. Fisher)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

With the announcement of the F-35 Lightning II coming to Eielson, the base’s Airmen are adjusting to accommodate the newcomers.

While the new aircraft will not be too big of a transition for many Airmen here, it’s completely changing other’s careers.

In order to support the maintenance demands for the F-35 across the Air Force, Airmen from the 354th Maintenance Group began cross training to become crew chiefs for the new airframe, shifting their daily efforts to the 354th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

“We’ve started with four Airmen training to be crew chiefs,” said Master Sgt. Mark Riemenschneider, a 354th AMXS flightline expediter.

While preparing for the future, Riemenschneider said the effort doubles as a current force enabler filling voids due to deployments and shortages.

“We’ve had a bit of a manning challenge here and the new Airmen are an excellent remedy to that,” he said. “They’ve been an excellent asset so far.”

The four Airmen left their previous jobs in order to train to maintain an entire aircraft utilizing their old skills, which were more singular in nature. Among those Airmen is Senior Airman Jerri Addison, a former aerospace propulsion journeyman, who began her journey to become a crew chief.

“I chose engines originally, but now I get to maintain not just the engine, but the entire jet,” said Addison. “I enjoy learning how to work with the whole aircraft. It’s the most fun part of the job so far. Being 100 percent responsible rather than just focusing on one aspect has broadened the way I look at the mission.”

While it may be fun and satisfying to learn her new job, it hasn’t all been positive. Training for the new job can be a difficult task and present challenges.

Addison said during her time as an aerospace propulsion journeyman, she spent most of her time in a climate-controlled office working behind a desk or in a hanger maintaining an engine. The shift from a controlled indoor environment into constant exposure to the harsh winter can be quite a test.

“The biggest challenge for me so far has been the cold,” Addison said while laughing. “I’m used to working in an office with heating and cooling, and now I’m working in a hangar that is 10 degrees inside and negative 20 degrees outside. The temperatures aren’t even at the bottom of the scale yet.”

Even with the huge change in her environment and the many new tasks she is expected to learn and complete, Addison is taking the transition in stride and seeing the positives of her new situation.

“I like it out here on the flightline,” said Addison. “I love the job and I’m enjoying learning all about it. It’s different here; you get to see everything and experience parts of everyone else’s job. It’s amazing watching it all come together. Watching all the different pieces fit together for the mission is by far the most amazing thing I’ve seen in the Air Force.”