Beyond a shadow of a doubt

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

On March 21, I had the awesome opportunity to join my fellow Icemen during the inaugural 354th Fighter Wing Shadow Program at the 18th Aircraft Maintenance Unit. During our tour, we got up close to an F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft as they ran various checks on its components. For many Icemen, this was their first time being within arms-reach of a jet and for even more people, their first time to see how it all works.

Individuals working at the AMU taught us about their job of maintaining the aircraft and showed us how all the different parts worked. They also gave use the chance to take a peek inside the cockpit while they answered any questions we had about it.

I really enjoyed learning about the aircraft and the various jobs that contribute to its continued functionality, but what was most impressive to me was to see the excitement of everyone around me.

A career choice can be a tricky subject to talk about. While some would prefer to work in a different field, others may enjoy the work they do, but simply want a change of pace.

There is an assortment of other reasons why someone may not want to discuss their workplace, but shadowing the 18th AMU was a stark contrast to that.

It was evident how much the maintainers truly loved their jobs. You could hear the passion in their voice as they spoke about what they do on a daily basis and it was a delight to learn from them.

Through this experience, I’ve come to realize there truly is a job out there for everyone, especially in the Air Force. The challenge is to get out there and find what your passion is.

I once spoke with someone on their thoughts about why people choose to leave the military. In his opinion, it’s because they haven’t found what they want to do, so they search for it elsewhere. The shadowing program will give Icemen an important opportunity right here on Eielson.

While it’s true Icemen have to wait until their retraining window opens to have a shot at changing career fields, they’ll now get the chance to learn more about the jobs that may be available and see the wealth of opportunity right here in their Air Force. 

With the current manning issue in the Air Force, it’s vital we maintain the force we have, while also expanding it to include many new Airmen. The 354th Fighter Wing Shadow Program, and others like it, gives Airmen a chance to explore new possibilities within the Air Force, which is without a doubt, the world’s greatest.