– The maintainers across the Air Force, they’re a passionate crowd. What motivates them most is being able to see those weapon systems
that they take care of fly. The reason why we show up and do this every single day, it’s
not for the money, right. It’s not for the accolades. The folks that we’re able to retain in the United States Air Force do this because this is what they love. Our US Air Force has spent the last 25-plus years engaged in combat every day. The question now is how much
longer will we be in this. And I think the answer is for another half a generation or another generation. There was a reduction some years ago to reduce the number of
people in the Air Force, but the jobs and the deployments and things like that didn’t slow down. So now those folks that
were in at that time have retired, moved on, so a
lot of the experience is gone. We have to depend on you. You’re the ones that
ultimately do this for us. We’re not the most powerful
Air Force in the world because of the weapon
systems that we have. We’re the most powerful
Air Force in the world because the people that we have, because of the young airmen, the first-level leadership that we have, for those brand-new staff
sergeants that are out there. That’s the level that
ultimately makes us as powerful as we are, that no other Air
Force in the world can touch. – I’m Staff Sergeant Jonathan Ray Dantuma. I work here at Travis Air Force Base. I’m a 2 Alpha 6X6, which is aircraft electrical and environmental. We can work on all air frames
except for F-22s and F-35s. I was a barber for about five years, and before that, I was
a music school dropout. I joined the Air Force in 2009. I had worked in the Detroit area and General Motors had
filed for bankruptcy, and there was no money
to be made in the city. And I saw one of those Air Force signs where it was like, “Go into the blue.” And I was like, “That’s a great idea.” And I went to my
recruiter, the nearest one I could find on Google Maps and
I was like, “Let’s do this.” He was like, “How long you
been thinking about it?” I’m like, “The last 10
minutes, I’m ready to join.” And two weeks later, I was in basic. Yeah, we’re gonna be
going up and down a lot. Gonna be climbing around a lot. We’re gonna be getting a lot
of good training (laughs). Our job, there’s nothing
very sexy about it. If people don’t know what’s
wrong with a certain system or if they’re not sure who works it, we end up working it so
I have to be confident enough to be like, “I don’t
know this system or this “aircraft, but I know how to
fix things so I got this.” – I mean, usually go to
bed, just disappointed that I’m not at work (laughs). These guys that come in,
they have this certain expectation of what they’re looking for and they realize man, maybe
this isn’t what I wanted. I don’t know if I can tolerate this type of workload consistently. I know for myself the first two years I was in the Air Force,
that’s how long it took me to get to a point where I
felt like I understood my job. And until then, I honestly
did not enjoy what I did. And there was a moment where I realized I know my job and it’s fun now. – We were 4,000 active duty
maintainers short two years ago. 4,000 vacancies in the
flight lines and the shops. As of December, we have
closed that gap to zero. (audience applauds) – So the problem over the past few years is that we’ve got very
young aircraft maintainers and we don’t have the
experience level needed to get those young
aircraft maintainers up to experienced aircraft maintainers
or super professionals. Guys that can go out to the airplane, work on it, fix it, no problems,
come back and do it again. So what we have is we have
an abundance of young, young, inexperienced maintainers
with a shortage of trainers. – So with the brand-new
Airmen that we’re getting, it’s great that we’re
getting those bodies. What sucks about it though is
that they’re not experienced. I have a guy that I’m getting,
he doesn’t know anything. Sure, he can hand me
tools and check out tools, and I’m gonna explain things to him, but it’s gonna take
about a year and a half to two years of training before
he’s a reliable maintainer to where I can have him be
able to work independently of me where I don’t have to have someone supervising him or myself supervising him. It slows down my ability to do my job, so I deal with a little bit of frustration in terms of I don’t have the
people with me that I need. But at the same time,
I actually really enjoy getting to train people
in a way that I feel will actually allow them to
be a competent electrician. – [Man] So you’re just
looking at collapsing slats, so it’ll be side steering plate. – I expect them to keep up with me. I don’t dumb things down. I tell them, “Hey, we’re learning this. “You have to learn this because eventually “I’m not gonna be here
and you’re gonna have “to be able to do this
without me assisting you.” – [Man] The GCN is 190825501. – [Man] Let him know it’s for AR and for them to be dispatched. – [Man] It’s for AR? – And just be like,
“Thank you, could you also “dispatch AR for this?” (intercom beeps) – Thank you, could you
also dispatch AR for us? – So if I have an airman
that’s newly trained in a specific area,
once they’re signed off and proficient in that task, I like to use them to teach
other people in that task to help reinforce that
knowledge within them. ‘Cause the best way to learn the knowledge is also to teach that
knowledge to other people. So you’re learning and
teaching someone else, so it’s a double reinforcement standard, and that’s the way I like to do it. – [Man] All right, copy. – [Man] Cool. – All right, so now ask
zero three if he copies. – Just ask zero three– – [Man] Zero three, do you copy? – Oh, okay. (intercom beeps) Zero three, do you copy? – [Zero Three] I copy. – Oh, yeah, see? It’s kind of a tough love relationship where I’m gonna make
sure that they succeed, and I’m gonna put them in situations where they are challenged, where it’s gonna be difficult. But at the same time,
if it gets to a point where it’s beyond their capabilities, I’m gonna help them
understand a more efficient way to do it then what they think might be the most efficient way. And the airmen that I have trained, they’ve turned out into really
well-rounded electricians. I feel like the way
that I do things works, and they’re my guys, I love my guys. I would do anything for any of them. – So having a not-maintenance-ready force would put the United States at a huge strategic disadvantage. But luckily, just the
hard work of maintainers and just having them being
there day in and day out, getting things done,
that’s never gonna happen. We’re never gonna be put in that position ’cause they know how to hold the line. – There are a lot of challenges that face the sustainment of these
weapon systems out there, and the solutions are gonna come from the collective of the
entire Air Force, honestly. It’s gonna come from the depot maintainer that’s on the line. It’s going to come from
the brand-new three-level that asks why we do this a particular way, and maybe brings some
new idea to how we can handle this job that we do
a little bit differently then we have in the past. Those new airmen that
we’ve just brought in, make sure that we’re investing in them as a part of the organization to get them to want to stay
as a part of the organization, not just to train them and
get them to be fully qualified and then burn them out
by using them day to day, but finding a way to be
able to invest in them and their positive psychology so that we can get them to have a matter of quality of service
that they want to stay as a part of this organization
because it’s something they could never get on the outside. (light calm music)