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Nomad takes expertise on the road

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Frederick Riley, 33rd Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress systems journeyman was selected to provide the 31st Test and Evaluations Squadron with F-35A Lightning II maintenance manning support, July through Oct. 2018, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. During his temporary duty assignment, Riley helped the 31 TES with their first "-27" seat upgrade, trained Airmen to remove and replace a canopy and general maintenance practices outside of his career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Frederick Riley, 33rd Maintenance Squadron aircrew egress systems journeyman was selected to provide the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron with F-35A Lightning II maintenance manning support, July through October 2018, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. During his temporary duty assignment, Riley helped the 31 TES with their first "-27" seat upgrade, trained Airmen to remove and replace a canopy and general maintenance practices outside of his career field. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Thompson)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- Senior Airman Frederick Riley, 33rd Maintenance Squadron Aircrew Egress Systems journeyman, was selected by leadership in the Egress Flight to provide the 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron with F-35A Lightning II maintenance support July through October at Edwards Air Force Base, California.

Riley was selected because of the knowledge he displays on a daily basis and the drive he brings to his workplace.  The 31st TES is a geographically separated unit of the 53rd Wing, headquartered here.

“Riley has proven himself as a highly capable and innovative Airman and has had a significant impact on the success of the F-35 Egress program here,” said 2nd Lt. Kyle Mercer, 33rd MXS Accessories Flight commander. “As a co-lead on our F-35 Egress Time Change Program, he is responsible for tracking, inspecting and maintaining over 1,200 lifesaving components across a fleet of 25 F-35A aircraft.”


Riley saw the temporary duty assignment as a challenge to prove his depth of knowledge to himself while learning more about how the jets function.

“I really wanted to learn the operational test and developmental test side of things by working with engineers,” said Riley. “I learn by looking at things and putting pieces together to find out how they work. So going there would help me to understand our jet better.”

While there, Riley exceeded expectations by fulfilling his role in aiding maintenance operations but he went even further, using his knowledge in his craft to execute several large scale projects while training others simultaneously.

Riley helped the 31st TES complete their first “-27” seat upgrade on their F-35s. Riley shared his knowledge from working hand-in-hand with many of the agencies here. The new seat enhances capabilities and ensures aircrew are safe while operating the jet. He helped lay the foundation that enabled maintainers there to perform the same seat change after his departure. He also guided several maintainers through the process of removing and replacing the canopy of the aircraft.


During his trip, Riley accompanied the 31st TES on another temporary duty assignment to Volk AFB, Wisconsin. Before departing, he was trained and signed off on several of the responsibilities generally reserved for F-35 crew chiefs. During this forward deployment, he served outside his career field by working alongside crew chiefs from the squadron.


Riley’s participation saved the 31st TES manpower and maintenance hours but Riley wanted more to come from this trip. He is using his knowledge from the 33rd Fighter Wing’s maintenance practices in conjunction with what he learned from this trip to create a method of sharing best practices across the enterprise.

“There are differences in some of the ways we do things between our units,” said Riley. “There are somethings that they do better than us and we do better than them. I want to find those differences and share that across the F-35 program.”

“In order to advance the program, best practices and lessons learned need to be shared by the F-35 teams across the entire enterprise,” said Mercer. “Supporting the Edwards team by sending Riley was a perfect way for him to share Eglin's best practices and lessons learned, as well as learn from the Edwards team about how they operate.”  

Since returning, Riley has been working with his flight and squadron leadership to make those changes a reality. When implemented, this new process for sharing information will greatly impact savings for man-hours and funds by removing redundancies in maintenance.