News>Crew Chief’s First Launch: ‘Nervous and Excited, All At the Same Time’
130507-Z-VA676-087– Silhouetted against a setting sun, Airman 1st Class Jhontez Peoples is congratulated by Master Sgt. Doug Cox as an A-10 Thunderbolt II departs from its parking space and heads toward the runway for an evening launch at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., May 7, 2013.. The launch was the first for Peoples, a new crew chief with the 127th Maintenance Group. Cox oversaw Peoples’ work during the flight. The aircraft and the Airmen are all part of the 127th Wing, Michigan Air National Guard. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by TSgt. Dan Heaton)
130507-Z-VA676-090 – An A-10 Thunderbolt II in the background, Airman 1st Class Jhontez Peoples is seen on the flight line of Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., May 7, 2013. Peoples is a crew chief with the 127th Maintenance Group. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by TSgt. Dan Heaton)
5/8/2013 - SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- It was early evening on May 7, 2013. Just about 8:15 p.m. - that's 2015 for you military types. That's what time Airman 1st Class Jhontez Peoples had his name written in indelible ink in the ledger of freedom.
During routine night flying operations that evening, Peoples, a crew chief with the 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, launched his first A-10 Thunderbolt II.
"I was nervous and excited, all at the same time," Peoples said, moments after the A-10 rolled out of the parking space and headed for the runway to take off.
A-10 operations at Selfridge have continued without interruption over the past year, despite some challenging times due to budget concerns which had Air Force leaders considering eliminating the A-10 squadron at Selfridge. That plan was later rejected, but it briefly impacted recruiting for the A-10 squadron and maintainers at Selfridge. Since that time, recruiting and retention levels have been returning to normal, with the arrival of Peoples and other new recruits across the 127th Operations Group, which flies the A-10s, and the 127th Maintenance Group, which keeps the Warthog - as the aircraft is also known - in flying condition.
Peoples said it took him a while to join the military, but now, about a year in, he's glad he did.
"Sept. 11 (2001), really made me want to join up," he said, standing on the flight line, the sound of jet noise in the background. "But, I was still 17 and to be honest, I didn't even really know how you went about joining the military.
"But now, I have a daughter, I have a son. I wanted a better life. So far, the Air Guard has been giving me that," Peoples said.
Peoples only returned home to southeast Michigan on May 1, after attending Basic Military Training and technical school to become a flight chief at bases in Texas and Arizona. After 30 days of "seasoning" training at Selfridge, he'll return to his status as a traditional member of the Air National Guard, serving one weekend per month and two weeks per year on active duty, though Peoples said he plans to volunteer for additional duty.
A full-time musician in his civilian life - he composes rock, rap and rhythm & blues music - Peoples said there's a lot to keep in mind while launching an A-10.
"It's easy to become overwhelmed, there's so much to know," he said. "The best advice I was given is to calm down, do the best you can and rely on your training."
And how did Peoples do on his first launch?
"He did great," said Master Sgt. Doug Cox, a crew chief with the 127 AMXS, who was supervising Peoples during the launch.
Cox estimated that he's trained about one new crew chief a year for each of the past 20 years.
"Before that, I was the new guy just starting out," Cox said.
To be a good crew chief, according to the master sergeant, an Airman needs to have good situational awareness or, as Cox puts it, "the ability to detect a problem as its happening or even before it happens."
"Airman Peoples has the right attitude and he's eager to learn. Those are the kind of people we want out here," Cox said.
Comprised of approximately 1,600 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command, Air Combat Command and Air Force Special Operations Command by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which is also home to units of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection.