MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Master Sgt. Derk Slonaker is a quality assurance inspector for the 167th Maintenance Group and the 167th Airlift Wing Airman Spotlight for May 2023.
As a quality assurance inspector, Slonaker executes a planned, systemic approach to quality assurance for all areas of aircraft maintenance, which provides maintenance leaders confidence in the 167th’s aircraft, aircraft systems, support equipment and products. He also provides technical advice and acts as a force of safety on the flightline.
“Master Sgt. Slonaker has been an integral part of the maintenance QA team since joining the office. He is a superior inspector with very strong research skills that enables him to easily operate outside of his primary AFSC, which is important given our limited in-shop manning,” said Chief Master Sgt. Keith Taber, 167th Maintenance Group quality assurance superintendent. “Additionally, Derk has been recognized as a QA subject matter expert, he is routinely contacted by other units and National Guard Bureau personnel to assist with the Air National Guard QA enterprise through events such as staff assistance visits, special projects, and manning workshops.”
Job Title: Quality Assurance Inspector
How long have you served in the unit? 24 years.
My job here is important because: we are the technical advisory agency for the aircraft maintenance organization. The Maintenance Group Quality Assurance section performs inspections and reports compliance throughout aircraft maintenance to provide the commander with detailed status of the Group.
People may be surprised to know this about me: I play drums in an all original modern rock band. I think hobbies are important, it’s good to let off some steam and cut loose. Playing music has been a big part of my life. I’ve been fortunate to appear on some big stages while interacting with famous musicians from all over.
The most exciting thing I’ve done in the military is: The daily turning planes while deployed. The planes would come in with various maintenance discrepancies and doing our part to have them fixed and ready to fly for the next mission. In my most recent deployment, I forward deployed on an Interim Safety Investigation Board for a Class A aviation mishap. Obviously, a mishap is never a good thing, but having the chance to work one firsthand overseas was definitely an experience of my career that will stay with me.
One/Some of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout my career: Learning to think things through. I’ll put my foot in my mouth but learning and doing better. Really just personalities and relationships, realizing we don’t all think alike, and that different perspectives are a good thing. Learning what’s not important to me, might be very important to someone else and applying that to the team.
My advice to the newest Airmen in the Wing: The basics. Learn to be an expert at your career field, everything else will follow. With my quality assurance background, we stress the importance of following your Technical Orders and policy, I think that should relate to any career here. Just get in your specific directives, know them inside and out, and apply that to everything you do.
The best thing about working with my team is: definitely the relationships and learning from each other. The QA Inspectors are from all different maintenance career fields, and I’ve learned so much from them as we all bring something different to the mission.