NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
Master Sgt. Dustin Watson, 926th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, was awarded the Thomas N. Barnes Award for Air Force Reserve Command April 18, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
The award is given annually to the most outstanding crew chief in the command.
The Pittsburgh native joined the Air Force in 1993 and served on active duty for 12 years. He joined the Air Force Reserve in 2010 and became an Air Reserve Technician.
As a dedicated crew chief, Watson is primarily responsible for an individual aircraft. However, he services multiple F-16 Fighting Falcons and must maintain two different engines.
“Crew chiefs are responsible for anything the aircraft needs. But here, we work on everything,” Watson said.
His duties typically include anything from aircraft launch and reception, to scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. The Air Force could not operate successfully without well-maintained aircraft.
“I really like what I do because every day there is a new challenge. It’s a rewarding job,” Watson said of his numerous duties.
Watson is working at his ninth base overall and third different airframe. His previous experience was with the C-5 Galaxy and C-17 Globemaster III.
Watson’s current mission with the 926th AMXS is two-fold. They support the 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron as well as the 64th Aggressor Squadron through Total Force Integration (TFI), according to Watson’s flight chief, Senior Master Sgt. Paul Cocanour.
“926th AMXS is a whole different dynamic in the Air Force Reserve Command with the missions we support here. Through TFI we have worked well with our active-duty counterparts. They rely heavily on us to get the mission done and Master Sgt. Watson is definitely key to getting that mission done,” Cocanour said.
Winning the award came as a surprise to Watson, who remained humble and was quick to praise others.
“It feels good to get appreciation for the work you do but it looks really good for the unit. It was most important to me that the unit gets recognition for what we’re doing,” Watson said.
Others were less surprised that he won, given his experience and knowledge of aircraft maintenance.
“Master Sgt. Watson is a maintenance juggernaut. He sees what needs to get done, and he gets it done. To have someone from our mission be put up for this award at AFRC and win, shows the quality of our maintainers,” Cocanour said.
Cocanour also admired Watson’s selfless service outside the hangar.
In November 2018, Watson helped put together 500 Thanksgiving baskets with complete meals for those in need.
“He’s not just looking out for his maintainers, he’s looking out for the [Las Vegas] community as well,” Cocanour said.
Along with great individual and unit recognition, the award brought other perks as well.
Watson was recently asked to throw out the first pitch at a college baseball game between the University of Nevada Las Vegas and San Diego State University.
“It’s an accomplishment for me but it really shines a light on our unit and Nellis Air Force Base,” Watson said.