Ex-crew chief reunites with pilot, retiring aircraft

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class David Bernal Del Agua
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force views its Airmen as its most valuable resource and taking care of them is among the highest of priorities. Whether that means providing for families of deployed Airmen, offering levels of support to enhance their readiness and quality of life, or allowing them an opportunity to increase morale, the Air Force is prepared to help.

Staff Sgt. Neil Oltmer, 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron structural journeyman, had a once-in-a-lifetime chance, May 20, 2014, to be reunited with the last pilot and aircraft he worked with before making a career change away from the flightline he loved.

Oltmer was a dedicated crew chief for the A-10 Thunderbolt II with the 23rd Fighter Group at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, from 2005 to 2010.

"Sgt. Oltmer was an excellent crew chief; he was one of our best," said Lt. Col. Jeff "Growler" Hogan, 23rd Fighter Group deputy commander and pilot. "He was a huge loss to the community when he left."

Oltmer said he made the decision to retrain because he wanted to spend more time with his two children, which was something he felt he was unable to do as a crew chief.

Hogan contacted Oltmer to inform him the A-10 they worked with for more than three years together was getting retired. He asked if Oltmer would be a part of the aircraft's send-off to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. At the AMARC, also known as the 'boneyard', is where the aircraft will be retired.

"He has an outstanding work ethic and out of the entire aircraft maintenance unit, there were maybe three or four guys that I absolutely trusted," said Hogan. He was one of them."

Oltmer's reliability is still palpable to his old boss, and Hogan wanted to express his appreciation.

"I was afforded this opportunity because of the pride and ownership I had with this aircraft," said Oltmer. "Colonel Hogan showed me you are awarded good things like this when you care about your job."

Oltmer attributed the Air Force for his accomplishments.

"The Air Force trained me well enough to where four years later, I was still able to recover and launch this aircraft," said Oltmer. "They have shown me that if you work hard enough in your career, you get rewarded like I was."

Many things had to fall in place for Oltmer and Hogan to work together again, but with the help of the Air Force, the reunion was a success.

"I think it's a tremendous occasion to work with Sgt. Oltmer again," said Hogan. "We always worked together as a team, and having the chance to let him launch the airplane on its last sortie is a phenomenal opportunity."

"It's bitter sweet taking a plane out to the boneyard, but this plane has done its job," said Hogan. "I'm happy that we are able to send it out on our terms, and we are able to do it as a team for the last time."

The event was a first of many lasts for Oltmer, who is voluntarily separating this summer.

"This was the absolute best way that I would want to separate, and I got the opportunity to not only be a crew chief again, but also be a part of that A-10's retirement," said Oltmer. "To me, this is worth more than a 20-year retirement. This is an opportunity that most people would never have in a lifetime, let alone in their Air Force career."