Crew chief continues grandfather’s legacy

  • Published
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

For more than 50 years, generations of Airmen have put their blood, sweat, and tears in the KC-135 Stratotanker.

For Senior Airman Tomorian Montgomery, the legacy and tradition of working on this aircraft is in his blood.

In October of 1963, John Gilbert, Montgomery's grandfather, enlisted into the Air Force as a KC-135 crew chief.

“We flew a number of missions over Vietnam, which I have been very proud to be a part of; representing myself, my family, my country and the Air Force during a time that the United States needed us and  called upon us,” said Gilbert.

After serving 4 years, Gilbert separated from the Air Force and transitioned into commercial aviation.

“My experience in the Air Force provided me with a bedrock of knowledge that has benefited me to this very day, and carried me through over 40 years of service in the commercial aviation industry,” said Gilbert. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity I had to serve the country.”

Fast forward to present day, and Montgomery, a KC-135 crew chief with the 6th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, continues in his grandfather's steps. He often swaps stories with his grandfather about their experiences working as crew chiefs.

"When I heard he was in the Air Force and working on the KC-135, I was very excited,” said Gilbert. “I wanted to know everything that he was doing, and for him to make sure he touched bases with me if he got into a situation that he had questions about. I spent my life in the field of aviation maintenance, so I am more than happy to assist in any particular endeavor.”

Gilbert’s dedication to aviation maintenance has had a major impact on Montgomery.

"He has that drive to do well, to maintain excellence in everything he does, and to pursue greatness,” said Montgomery. “Even after he got out of the military, he took what he learned and kept pushing. His dedication makes me want to do the same; it’s a characteristic he passed down to me.”

Dedication is essential for crew chiefs. From pre-flight to post-flight inspections, these Airmen are the first eyes on the aircraft, checking for damage and hazards; the lives of the crew are in their hands.

“The capability starts at home; it starts right here on that flightline, with the people who get up, check out those tools, go out there and who keep a knocking,” said Montgomery.

At the end of the day, the hard work and dedication of Airmen like Gilbert and Montgomery continues to keep the KC-135 in the air. It is a legacy that motivates the maintainers here at MacDill, and Airmen around the world.