JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J.- —
With rough, callused and grease stained hands, maintainers are equipped with little more than their ear protection, reflective belts, expertise and a passion for what they do.
They can be found bustling among the vast, echoing hangars, diligently maintaining and mobilizing the mammoth KC-10 Extender and C-17 Globemaster III.
In contrast, they are now challenged with a very unique opportunity to test their skills on a much smaller scale.
When the miniature fighter was first wheeled into their shop, it was clear to see that time had taken its toll. It was dingy, covered in paint chips, dents, and had a missing wing tip from the general wear and tear of years of use.
The 314th Recruiting Squadron uses the motorized mini-jet, a golf cart with an F-22 Raptor frame, to be driven in parades or used as a static display along with other recruiting and marketing tools. However, because of its current state, it was rundown and unfit to be presented.
So the 314th RCS called in a favor to their friends at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.
“We are doing a complete refurbishment, from wiring, painting, brakes, lights, and the power system,” said Michael Amico IV, 305th Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural repair craftsman and the F-22 refurbishment project manager. “We’ve basically torn it all down and we are completely redoing it.”
The 314th RCS asked the 305th MXS if they would take on the task of restoring the mini-jet as they saw fit, and to put in their ideas so that it represented the Air Force in the community. This occasion gave the Airmen of the 305th MXS a rare opportunity to practice and fine tune their skills in important areas such as different carbon fiber and fiber glass techniques that they use on their larger aircrafts every day.
“It is important for us to build relationships, with not only community members but also with Airmen at our bases within our [Area of Responsibility],” said Master Sgt. David A. Fullam, 314th RCS, standardization and training flight chief. “We often need champions of [Air Force Specialty Codes] to call on in order to help support the recruiting mission and we want to be able to bring local influencers to an Air Force base to showcase the Air Force mission and how we develop young men and women to reach their full potential.”
Maintainers of the 305th MXS fully restored and rebuilt the sleek, scaled down fighter aircraft and presented it to the 314th RCS on Oct. 20.
After three months of late nights, weekends and off-time volunteering the jet was finally unveiled to the 314th and they were captivated by the complete transformation it had made in just a few short months, said Sampson.
“I’ve never seen this done in my career,” said Amico. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these young Airmen.”
With the importance of training and the impacting of real world recruiting efforts both units benefited from the whole experience and it strengthened the relationship between wingmen.
“I know that they could have been doing other things; they have an important job to actually be working on with our Air Force assets that are flying missions and saving lives,” said Lt. Col. Anthony J. Sampson, 314th Recruiting Squadron Commander. “The fact that they took the time in their off-time to do this for us tells me that they have a passion for what they do. We inspire, engage and recruit Airmen for our airpower for this country, and this asset helps us do that.”