Lady maintainers “Keep ‘em Flying”

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Zachary Cacicia
  • 512th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Team Dover’s maintenance groups hosted an airplane nose art unveiling ceremony here March 22.

The nose artwork, titled “Keep ‘em Flying” by renowned artist Greg Hildebrandt, was placed on a Team Dover C-17 Globemaster III cargo plane and will be a permeant fixture to the aircraft.

The piece depicts a Rosie the Riveter-like lady maintainer rolling up her sleeves while holding a wrench, ready to keep ‘em flying. The piece pays tribute to past, present and future dedicated female maintainers, whose tireless efforts and confident professionalism continue to ensure mission readiness across the Air Force.

“This is about all lady maintainers,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bryan "Skip" Ford, 512th Maintenance Squadron superintendent. “I want them to all know how much we appreciate what they do on a daily basis. The successful ones are phenomenal mechanics and great people.”

Ford, a full-time reservist, whose determination and organization brought all the pieces together to make this happen, is delighted to see Rosie finally on the side of a Dover jet. The effort has been years in the making.

“There are two different programs: airplane naming and airplane nose art,” said Ford. “Airplane naming is very difficult to do, because it has to go all the way up to Secretary of the Air Force level for approval.”

For the past serval years, Ford has attempted to get a Dover airplane named the “Spirit of Rosie the Riveter,” but several attempts were stalled at differing levels of authorization. That is when Ford was introduced to the nose art program by a colleague at Air Mobility Command, and it requires a lower level of approval. At the same time, he was shown the “Keep ‘em Flying” art piece and fell in love with the depiction because of the way it represented lady maintainers.

Ford contacted Hildebrandt’s agent and one thing led to another, until Hildebrandt agreed to allow the piece to be put on a Dover plane. Ford said he heard the artist was ecstatic to have one of his pieces of art on the side of an airplane.

“I really wanted to get this done for women’s history month,” said Ford. “The intent for the whole thing is to honor lady maintainers from 1942 through the present day.”

About two weeks ago, Ford finally received approval from AMC to put the piece on a jet, and his plans pushed forward.

“I’ve been around Dover for a long time, and lady maintainers are a special breed,” said Ford.

One of those lady maintainers is his boss and fellow reservist, Col. Sherry Teague, the 512th Maintenance Group commander and Dover’s top lady maintainer.

“For all the women in the room, past and present,” said Teague, “who have put on the uniform and helped advance aviation, thank you for being an example of perseverance and pride that has inspired me and all the other lady maintainers here at Dover.”

Teague had nothing but praise for Ford and his efforts.

“Getting Rosie put on the nose of 6168 has been a long project with many obstacles thrown his way,” she said. “But, it was a labor of love born out of his respect for all the lady maintainers he has served with.”

"I was very honored that Skip reached out and asked me to attend the unveiling," said Joyce Ford (unrelated to Chief Ford), who served as both an active-duty and reserve maintainer in the 1980s. "I've always loved the artwork on old airplanes, and I think it's great that us women are being recognized as being some of the mechanics that make these planes fly."

The C-17 tail number 6168 was picked because its dedicated crew chief is a lady maintainer, Master Sgt. Christine King, 712th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. A DCC is responsible for all maintenance on the aircraft they are assigned to and reserved for those who display the initiative, management and leadership ability necessary to maintain an aircraft in combat ready status. King, who has been a reserve maintainer for 15 years, has been the DCC for 6168 for the past five years.

The day prior to the unveiling ceremony, she was found on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor on the inside of her jet, making sure it was in perfect condition.

“I work on this plane more than anyone,” said King, “and I love working on this plane more than anyone.”

Ford said, King is a great comparison to a modern-day Rosie.

“Women are completely competent in their jobs,” King said. “I think this is really neat to have Rosie on the nose, I didn’t really expect it to ever happen.”

Distinguished visitors who attended the unveiling ceremony included: Maj. Gen. Carol Timmons, Delaware adjutant general, Mayor of Dover Robin Christiansen and representatives from the offices of Delaware’s two U.S. Senators.