Unsung Heroes of the KC-10 Extenders

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sean Evans
  • 514th Air Mobility Squadrons

The 78th Air Refueling Squadron, 514th Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, conducted an off-station training mission that included an aerial refueling with the Blue Angels Jan. 3-6, 2018. The KC-10 Extender pilots, engineers and boom operators were accompanied by crew chiefs from the 714th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron here.


A vital part of the KC-10 mission, crew chiefs are responsible for inspecting and maintaining the aircraft to ensure they are mission-ready. They are required to be present on all OST missions in which their aircraft leaves the home station.


“You need mechanics if you are going to go anywhere that isn't home station,” said Staff Sgt. Beau J. Sisk, 714th AMXS crew chief. “The way the Air Force is organized, you’re assigned to a specific kind of aircraft. If we land at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam they don't have any KC-10 mechanics who are certified to work on them. So you need to bring KC-10 crew chiefs with you.”


Sisk was born in 1989 and is a native of Bayonne, New Jersey. He joined the U.S. Air Force in March 2011 as an active duty Airman working with B-2 Spirit bombers at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. In September 2014, he transitioned into the Air Force Reserve and joined the 714th AMXS. 


“I wanted to be a flying crew chief and I wanted to continue my military service,” Sisk said. “My only way to do that was to leave active duty and become an Air Reserve Technician.”


Sisk has been on several OSTs during his time here and each one has taken him to a new location. 


“Hawaii, Japan, and Sicily were probably among my favorites,” said Sisk. “I love seeing the world. The aerial refueling we do is awesome too. I don’t think I would have ever gotten the opportunity to do that if I weren’t a crew chief for the KC-10s.” 


From an outside perspective, the importance of crew chiefs to the success of OSTs can be easily overlooked. Pilots tend to be credited with ensuring the aircraft runs smoothly since they are the ones flying, however, crew chiefs are vital when it comes to spotting and remedying potential issues prior to the flight’s departure.


“Crew chiefs are trained in the basics of all systems of the aircraft they're assigned to,” said Sisk.  “We can troubleshoot to find problems early. On the road we take care of the aircraft and all the servicing and all the inspections that entails.” 


These routine pre-flight checks are steps taken by crew chiefs to identify any issues the aircraft may have that require correcting before takeoff. 


Members who have flown on missions or those flying via space available travel may have experienced minor delays due to an unexpected mechanical issue identified prior to departure. These are the moments crew chiefs are essential to minimizing delays and making sure the mission stays on track. 


“If possible we try to fix things before we have to call a specialist out to the flight line,” said Sisk. “We make sure the aircraft is buttoned up and ready for the next day.”


The importance of KC-10 crew chiefs is highlighted when an issue is encountered that requires knowledge of the specific aircraft’s systems that only crew chiefs like Sisk possess. Without Reserve Citizen Airmen like Sisk, the KC-10’s would be severely hindered in accomplishing their missions.