TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Fire protection – security forces – services – within the Air Force specialties and jobs are given titles that plainly explain what the profession entails. From one Airman’s perspective, his job is not just a title – it’s a calling.
Tech. Sgt. Robert Mackle, 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, recently won the 2016 Chief Master Sgt. Barnes Crew Chief of the Year Award for his tireless work he put into the 95th Fighter Squadron’s flagship F-22.
“Dedicated – it’s not just part of the job title,” Mackle said. “You actually have to be dedicated. You have to put in the time and have the integrity. You have to be trusted – that everything you are doing on that aircraft is the right thing. You can’t take shortcuts to make it the easy way so you don’t have to do something. That puts more work on somebody later.”
Going through the various achievements he obtained to receive the award, Mackle tapped his fingers on his desk, intermittently checking the taskings of the night sent from the expeditor.
Although humbled by the recognition, Mackle breezed by what got him the award. He was focused on his work and responsibilities for his 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift, dubbed “mid-shift.” Within the maintenance career field, Airmen work different times ensuring the flightline is manned 24/7.
“It’s about getting the mission done right the first time. That way when it comes down to it, when it’s time for us to go to war and do the mission, there isn’t a doubt in anybody’s mind that any one of us can go out there and do it, and the aircraft are going to perform flawlessly,” he said.
Since winning his award, Mackle has moved from the labor-intensive portion of the dedicated crew chief career field and is now in a more supervisory and administrative role. Though his hands may be a little cleaner in his new duties, he emphasized the need to be knowledgeable in whatever it is Airmen do.
“All of us are learning,” he said. “I’m still learning things, not just in my new position, but also as a crew chief. There is so much to learn about an aircraft. Once you finally learn something, share it and teach other people too. It’s always about trying to make everyone as proficient as possible and make sure everyone has as much knowledge as possible.”
Mackle received his award at the 2016 Maintenance Professional of the Year awards banquet. Among his coworkers, he waited with anticipation to see if he fit the criteria.
“Next we will present the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Thomas N. Barnes Crew Chief of the Year Award,” announced Senior Master Sgt. Jason Passmore at the event Feb. 17.
“This award is based on an individual’s ability to maintain the highest levels of readiness and efficiency to achieve excellence in all maintenance areas,” he said through the loudspeakers. “And the winner is – from the 325th AMXS – Tech. Sgt. Robert Mackle!”
The announcement was met with thunderous applause.
As Mackle explained what it takes to be a successful crew chief, his eyes lit up as you could see him mentally going over checklists.
“For the most part it’s about keeping your specific aircraft, and taking the pride and putting in the effort to make that aircraft yours and make it stand out,” Mackle said. “Make it not just look clean and pretty, but have the unique ‘this is the aircraft.’ You [treat] it like it’s one of your kids. You take care of it -- treat it the way it needs to be treated to make sure it has what it needs to fly the right way. Whether that’s wiping it down every day, cleaning your whites, cleaning the paint, or keeping your delayed discrepancies up to date. There is a lot of pride and competition between crew chiefs about whose jet is better.”
Although there is a healthy rivalry among maintainers, Mackle concluded with the importance of what brings the team together and makes the 95th FS Aircraft Maintenance Unit a close-knit group of maintenance professionals.
“It’s family,” Mackle said. “Whether we are deployed, TDY, or at home station, we are all like family. Everyone has the big brother that picks on people, the clown, the joker, but in the end we all have each other’s backs. It doesn’t matter whether you are having a rough time at home, bad day at work, or something tragic happens. Everyone is there for you, from the lowest airman first class all the way to the master sergeant in the office, everyone is there to take care of each other. It’s like having 50 or 60 other brothers and sisters.”