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Profiles of the B-1: Crew Chief

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- The B-1B Lancer can travel faster than the speed of sound and carry a payload of 75,000 pounds, which makes it far more complex than the wooden, gasoline-powered flyer the Wright brothers used. 

This elaborate configuration requires the B-1 to use a dedicated maintenance team to keep it in the air. 

"It takes a lot of hard work to get this jet to fly," said Senior Airman Brian Decker, 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit B-1 crew chief. Anything from a malfunctioning afterburning engine to a bad tire can keep the B-1 on the ground. 

As a crew chief, Airman Decker is required to know the workings of every system on the B-1. He is an overall jet maintainer, responsible for launching, recovering and refueling the B-1. He also inspects the B-1 to ensure that it is capable of flying. 

The responsibility of being a crew chief has earned the 23-year-old from Murphy, N.C., his name painted on the side of aircraft 60, the B-1 he is assigned to maintain. 

"I'm from a small town," Airman Decker said. "Most of my friends are doing a normal job while I'm out here getting paid to work on a multi-million dollar aircraft." 

The multi-million dollar aircraft Airman Decker works on is part of a B-1 fleet that carries the largest payload of both guided and unguided weapons, making it "the backbone of America's long-range bomber force." Within its bomber class, the B-1 holds nearly 50 world records for range, speed, payload and climb time.
 
Currently, several Ellsworth's B-1s are deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom 

"It's an awesome jet to work on," said Airman Decker. Seeing the B-1 successfully return from a mission and hearing the pilots' stories made me feel like I was making a difference, as a crew chief.
 
Airman Decker admits that maintaining the B-1 for today's fight is hard work. Every aspect of his job has to be done with 100 percent accuracy, efficiency and attention to detail. A normal day can run from 6:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., depending on what the flight schedule may be. 

Airman Decker always puts the mission first; it's not unusual to see him spend extra hours in the shop to ensure the B-1 is in perfect working order, said Tech. Sgt. Bruce Pfrommer, 34th AMU crew chief expediter. 

"I take a lot of pride in my job," Airman Decker said. "What I do every day is for the good of my country." 

Airman Decker is not alone. With more than 1,570 members representing various specialties, the 28th Maintenance Group is responsible for the readiness of Ellsworth B-1s. These members keep B-1s flying and help put bombs on target.