Whiteman crew chief flies into enlisted history

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- March 13 the airplane "Spirit of Arizona" awaited a historic moment in its hangar as Sergeant Teague, 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, smiling confidently, strode across the flight line sporting his flight suit and helmet.

Fellow Airmen greeted him jovially before the flight. No stranger to singular achievements, the Missouri native was named the 509th Maintenance Group Crew Chief of the Year for 2008.

He already was a keeper of the Spirit; one who stands out in front of the B-2, answering for the lethal hardware that inspires and strikes fear. Staff Sergeant Zachary Teague is now among an elite group.

Each of the 19 B-2s at Whiteman has a dedicated crew chief assigned to oversee maintenance of their aircraft; give them their wings, so to speak.

"Many outstanding maintenance personnel work tirelessly each day to ensure the B-2 functions safely so that our pilots can launch and complete the mission and return safely to their families," said Col. James Reavis, 509th Maintenance Group commander.

"Sergeant Teague has displayed dedication to the mission and safety of our pilots. This is actually just one small way we can say thank you for all he has done to bring our air crews home safe and sound."

"[The first enlisted B-2 incentive flight] was like an urban legend; we had heard it was going to happen but no one was sure if it was true," said Sergeant Teague.

He was intent and focused as he began the day March 12 with a B-2 familiarization briefing and mission brief with Col. Thomas Bussiere, 509th Operations Group commander.

The day continued with a ride in the B-2 simulator, emergency egress training and a visit to Aircrew Flight Equipment to be fitted in his life support gear.

Around 9 a.m. the Stealth Bomber lifted off, Colonel Bussiere at the controls and Sergeant Teague in the right seat.

Sergeant Teague felt the flight would benefit his technical skills by allowing him to see systems function as they only can in flight, but observed later it was mainly "a lot cooler from the pilot's perspective."

11 a.m. He climbed down from the airplane after a successful flight, joined in celebration by his wife Shannon, father, grandfather and numerous Whiteman personnel for handshakes and photos.

"In the long history of the Air Force, it's great to be the first of anything," said Sergeant Teague.

"I was very proud to do this," said Colonel Bussiere, having piloted the first flight of an enlisted Airman in "the most advanced weapon system on the planet."

The day would not have been complete without a liberal fire hose spraying by his wife, which sent Sergeant Teague scrambling across the flight line. It was likely welcome proof that he was not dreaming, after writing history in the sky.