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First female maintenance group commander takes reins

916th Maintenance Group Assumption of Command

Col. Amanda Sheets speaks to 916th Maintenance Group Airmen as their new commander after assuming command during a ceremony Sept. 8 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. Sheets is the first female 916th MXG commander. She will be in charge of maintaining the KC-135R Stratotanker as well as preparing for the KC-46. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

916th Maintenance Group Assumption of Command

Col. Craig McPike, 916th Air Refueling Wing commander, passes the guidon to Col. Amanda Sheets during the 916th Maintenance Group assumption of command ceremony Sept. 8 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. Sheets is the first female 916th MXG commander. She will be in charge of maintaining the KC-135R Stratotanker as well as preparing for the KC-46. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

916th Maintenance Group Assumption of Command

Col. Amanda Sheets informs her wing commander that she is ready to assume command of the 916th Maintenance Group during a ceremony Sept. 8 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C. Sheets is the first female 916th MXG commander. She will be in charge of maintaining the KC-135R Stratotanker as well as preparing for the KC-46. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Sam King)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. -- With the firm grasp of the guidon and a sharp salute, the first female 916th Maintenance Group commander took up the reins of her new unit here.

Col. Amanda Sheets became the commander of the Reserve KC-135R Stratotanker maintenance unit in a small ceremony at the unit training assembly Sept. 9.

“I am thrilled to be back in the 916th ARW and to lead this maintenance group,” said the former 916th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander. “It was hard to leave the first time, so to come back and command the 916th MXG is a huge honor for me.”

Col. Craig McPike, the 916th ARW commander, who officiated the ceremony, said it was an easy decision to hire Sheets to lead his maintenance group. His confidence showed right away. McPike left Sheets, as the ranking officer, in charge of the wing when he and his vice commander went on a temporary duty assignment.

Her first tasking: manage a wing hurricane evacuation plan for the approaching hurricane, Florence.

“I was a little intimidated,” she said. “Having a career in maintenance, you just never think you would have the responsibility of the whole wing in a situation like this. This was the fifth evacuation in my career, but that was always within the MXG. This time I had to look at the wing and the various processes. I knew though it was nothing I couldn’t handle and with the team we have at the 916th to help, we would be successful.”

Sheets wasn’t aware she broke new ground with her current position or that she had also done so when she was the first female to command the 916th AMXS in 2010. Upon the discovery, she was more than ready to accept the responsibilities.

“I am just one of many who have gone before me to break down the walls,” said the 22-year officer. “I hope it continues, so all individuals have opportunities to utilize their skills.”

Sheets has a plenty to do now that she’s officially in the leadership seat. She takes over the group responsible for maintaining 12 KC-135Rs both deployed and at home. Currently, her unit is surrounded by large-scale construction projects in the hangars and on the flight line. To top if off, she also must prepare her maintainers for a full mission change in the form of the new KC-46 Pegasus, due in two years.

“Converting to a new airframe is hard, then add the fact it’s the new, long awaited KC-46,” said the colonel. “That is a task I am excited to tackle!”

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