Face of Defense: Flight Engineer Reaches Combat Sortie Milestone
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia
380th Air Expeditionary Wing
SOUTHWEST ASIA, Jun. 28, 2013 A flight engineer assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron here flew his 400th combat sortie recently.
Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Fahey performs preflight checks on a KC-10 Extender prior to a June 14, 2013, mission in Southwest Asia. A flight engineer assigned to the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, Fahey manages all systems on the aircraft throughout the flight. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joshua J. Garcia
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Air Force Master Sgt. Brian Fahey, who reached the milestone June 14, has accumulated his total flying on two different aircraft platforms. He flew his 255th combat sortie on the KC-10 Extender tanker jet in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Before that, he flew 145 combat missions as a flight engineer for the MH-60 Pave Low helicopter.
Fahey said he appreciates the opportunities he has had to support two distinct missions.
"Flying on the Pave Lows and being part of the Air Force Special Operations Command were the most challenging things I ever did in my life; their mission is so unique," he said. The KC-10 mission has provided him with a different perspective on the Air Force and a chance to see the world, he added.
As a flight engineer, Fahey monitors the engines and other critical flight systems while the aircraft is in flight. Working alongside his pilots, Fahey ensures the aircraft is fully functional throughout missions. The engineer must have mechanical and technical knowledge on the aircraft systems to provide quick response fixes to any issues while in flight. This knowledge lets the engineer work closely with maintenance personnel, debriefing them on issues an aircraft might have had.
Fahey is one of two flight engineers in the 908th EARS who have reached the milestone. He is the fourth flight engineer and the eighth member in the entire active KC-10 community to have accumulated more than 400 combat sorties.
"It is a significant achievement, one that symbolizes years of hard work through multiple deployments and long periods of separation from family," said Air Force Lt. Col. Mona Alexander, the 908th EARS commander. "Fahey has been flying for 13 years; he has more than 2,000 hours of combat time in the KC-10, and a total of over 4,200 hours flying in the MH-60 and KC-10."
Fahey, who is deployed from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., said he is humbled by the experience and continues to strive.
"This is so cool. It really is an awesome feeling hitting a milestone like this," he said. "It makes me reflect back to all the missions I have flown and gives me a feeling that I was part of something bigger than myself."
Fahey said he hopes that reaching this milestone will show younger airmen they can attain their goals.
"It is important to always stay mission ready; I was notified of this deployment a week and a half before I left," he said. "You need to be resilient. Deployments take their toll. By keeping a balance to my work and off-duty time, I am able to handle the stress that comes with flying so many missions."
Always moving forward and thinking about the next generation of leaders, Fahey said, he has entertained the notion of becoming a first sergeant.
"Being a first sergeant is something I have wanted to do since I was an airman," he said. "I had a really good 'shirt' who had a big impact on me. I would love to be able to give back and keep that tradition going."
Fahey said his accomplishments are not due to his work alone, but to the efforts of the entire unit.
"My crew has been awesome on this trip. They have made this deployment so easy to handle," he said. "I have to give my praise to the aircraft maintainers. They are phenomenal. They provide outstanding support day in and day out, regardless of the difficult environment that they are challenged to work in."
With options available, Fahey said, he’ll approach the remainder of his military career in the same manner he reached 400 combat sorties: humbled by the experience, but seeing successes as stepping stones to bigger goals.