Airman 1st Class Alex Rodriguez: It's intimidating, knowing that the life of a pilot's in your hands, but that's what we're here for.
Airman 1st Class Robert Keller: Everything that this aircraft needs to function properly is what you're in charge of. You have to make sure this aircraft is ready to go at a moment's notice.
Airman 1st Class Alex Rodriguez: What you're learning in tactical aircraft maintenance is basic upkeep of the jet. You're learning how to be a mechanic.
Staff Sgt. Lori Manvell: You start off by teaching them aircraft general.
Staff Sgt. Richard Connell: Everything from hydraulics, flight controls, landing gear, engines, and fuel systems.
Staff Sgt. Lori Manvell: And from there we go into hands-on tests.
Staff Sgt. Richard Connell: It's only 30% classroom time, and it's 70% hands-on.
Airman 1st Class Alex Rodriguez: The first day I got to touch the jet was pretty crazy. It was really exciting.
Airman 1st Class Robert Keller: You realize that not everybody gets to do this.
Staff Sgt. Richard Connell: You can always tell, they get excited when we go into the blocks of training which involve getting into the cockpit, and being able to apply power, and then later on into landing gear systems, when they get to swing the landing gear, and do operational checks like that.
Airman 1st Class Alex Rodriguez: My friends back home, they're still stuck doing the same things they were doing when I was there, and then I'm working on a $16 million dollar jet, learning about ejection seats, and rockets, and missiles.
Staff Sgt. Richard Connell: It is a lot of fun, and it's definitely something that you can tell they're excited about.
Airman 1st Class Robert Keller: Before I came in, I had never worked on cars or anything, and it just amazed me how quickly I was able to pick it up and fall in love with it.
Staff Sgt. Richard Connell: A student coming out of tech school probably only has about a one-month turnaround before he'll be on the aircraft, maintaining it and inspecting it.
Airman 1st Class Alex Rodriguez: I can do so many things with this career. I can go to college afterwards, try to become an officer. I can just stay in it and work on the jets for the next 20 years. I can switch and work on commercial aircraft in the civilian world. There's a lot of different opportunities and benefits that come along with being here.
Airman 1st Class Robert Keller: As you learn how to work on the aircraft, know what to look for, and you know, earn more responsibility, you will become a dedicated crew chief. And at that point, you will have your name actually printed on the aircraft.