Usually these spaces are given over to aircraft or the operations and battles they have flown in. The aviators normally are well represented as well, but there is another group, without whom from the dawn of aviation, none of this would have been possible – aviation maintenance personnel. Long before the mission is flown and long after the planes have returned and the aircrew departed the flight line, the maintainers are there fixing, tweaking, fueling, cleaning – getting the aircraft turned around in rapid time to go forth again.
To get here… You need to start here.
During my active association with aviation, I was extraordinarily privileged to have spent the majority of my ground jobs, from branch officer up to Maintenance Dept head, with this special group. And what a group they were, from the ATs and AEs in Avionics – who, by the way, were some of the most creative folks (in a good and, well, other sense…) I’ve run across, to the mechs in Power Plants and the metal benders in Airframes; the forever be-speckled corrosion control crew to the analysts in QA and maintenance control and perhaps the hardest working and least acknowledged – the plane captains. In all weather, steaming tropics to frozen arctic and especially pitching deck they were a constant. Leading this group of merry rogues were an elite whom I hold in deep regard for their leadership and technical skills – and a few other skills probably best left unmentioned ("Where’d you find it Master Chief? AIMD said there weren’t any onboard…" "Sir, don’t ask questions you don’t want to have to answer later…" "Got it…"). That would be the goat locker, aka the Chief’s Mess. No where else will you find such a collection of experience, hands-on leadership and technical acumen. They were my advisors, sounding board and reference point and it was an honor to have served with them.
So here’s to you, the wrench turner, chock dragger, box swapper and painter. You who were present on the Langley and at Midway, on the Eisenhower and in the Gulf; you who through all the years, have kept us flying in combat and peace, ashore and afloat; who prevail despite some of the biggest curve balls tossed your way by aricrew…