From the Frontlines: Tech. Sgt. Neil Fowler

ANDERSON AIR FORCE BASE, GUAM -- Dreams don't come true every day in the military. Often, the needs of the Air Force don't coincide with the wants of its members; but for one Whiteman Airman, all it took was expressing his interest to the right person.

A 14-year hydraulic technician, Tech. Sgt. Neil Fowler, currently assigned to the Pacific Air Force 36th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, decided to act on his desire to be a dedicated crew chief.

"It has always been a dream of mine to become a crew chief and eventually get my own aircraft," said Sergeant Fowler. "I was assigned to Quality Assurance, and my time was coming up to go back to the AMXS. Chief Montgomery asked me what I wanted to do, so I told him, 'I want my own plane.' That got the ball rolling, and several months later, I was assigned to the crew chief section."

Traditional retraining, with technical school and CDCs would help Sergeant Fowler reach his goal, but the 509th AMXS leadership decided to do cross utilization training to considerably speed up the process.

"CUT training is a simple training philosophy that consists of a maintainer in a specific career field such as mine, Aircraft Hydraulics, training on specific tasks assigned to crew chiefs," said Sergeant Fowler. "It is performed to a smaller degree in many B-2 maintenance fields, but not to this level that I'm aware of."

Sergeant Fowler's road to a new career wasn't paved. As one of the first to use CUT to become a crew chief, he had to blaze his own path.

"I was nervous at first," he said. "I felt a self-induced pressure to be the absolute best."

But Sergeant Fowler's mechanical-inclination and drive to succeed saw him through.

"Learning the specific tasks was not necessarily difficult since I've been a maintainer for 14 years or so."

Sergeant Fowler is currently working on the historic Spirit of America, the very last B-2 delivered to the Air Force.

The Spirit of America, previously designated Air Vehicle 1, was the nation's first glimpse of the previously hush-hush B-2 stealth bomber project when it was un-veiled in 1988. It was also the first B-2 to cut cloud, July 17, 1989, when it flew its initial sortie from Palmdale, Calif., to Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"Being a crew chief on the General's aircraft, the Spirit of America, is the high point of my career, and I find it very difficult to believe that it will be surpassed," he said.

Sergeant Fowler said he also appreciates the camaraderie of the maintainers at Whiteman.
"The best maintainers in the world walk on the flight line at Whiteman," he said. "For the rest of my life, I will appreciate the help and advice I've received from my leaders, peers, and the younger Airmen. The things that I have accomplished are the direct result of their efforts to help me."