JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska --
Lightning diverter strips sitting flush - check. Hydro lines show no evidence of leaks or chafing. All of the 179 other items on the basic post-flight inspection – check. It’s a 40-minute inspection, done every time an aircraft returns from a sortie, and on Oct. 14, it was the 5,000th time Tech. Sgt. Jeremiah Frye had evaluated a similar maintenance action.
Frye is a full-time Air Force Reserve quality assurance inspector with the 477th Fighter Group at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. He has dedicated 9 years of service to a position that is typically filled for 3 years or less. In that time, he has completed the amount of inspections that typically takes around 28 years to accomplish.
This was more than just another day on the job for Frye because for this milestone achievement, he was to be accompanied by the last living Tuskegee Airman of the 477th Bombardment Group. Additionally, the inspection coincided with the 10th anniversary of the 477th FG, which carries on the Tuskegee legacy.
“The significance of 5,000 inspections is a huge milestone in a career,” Frye said. “It feels amazing to accomplish something like this. It’s been a long haul. It took a lot of teamwork and help from coworkers around me. It’s one team up in quality assurance. Achieving this wasn’t just me – it took all of us.”
Quality assurance personnel are the primary technical advisory agents for maintenance actions and review tasks involved in supporting the maintenance effort.
“We are the eyes and ears for the maintenance group commander,” said Chief Master Sgt. Horace Honeycutt, 477th FG quality assurance superintendent and Frye’s supervisor. “We aim to provide an honest assessment of what happens on the flightline and with all aspects of maintenance.”
Honeycutt says most inspectors average between 300 and 350 inspections annually. He says it’s doubtful that anyone else in the Air Force has hit the kind of numbers Frye has.
“You’re talking about an average of approximately 500 inspections per year for Jeremiah, and that’s something you just don’t see,” said Honeycutt. “His work ethic is above reproach. He has great integrity and is very knowledgeable in what he does.”
Being a quality assurance inspector has taught Frye to be flexible to overcome hurdles.
“Things are always changing. Leadership is always changing,” said Frye. “Air Force instructions are always changing. You’ve got to stay on your toes and be aware, stay current with changes to regulations. Pay attention and keep expanding your knowledge. Every day presents a new situation or challenge, so, you’ve always got to adapt to the challenges around you. With that, you always have to learn new things.”
For his 5,000th inspection, Frye was to evaluate Staff Sgt. Stephen Teamer, 477th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, and the work he performed on an F-22 Raptor.
Adding to the uniqueness of the occasion, Frye conducted the inspection with Army Air Corps Staff Sgt. Leslie Edwards, 93, the last known living Tuskegee Airman of the 477th Bombardment Group which became the 477th FG in 2007.
As Airmen and Soldiers gathered around to watch history in the making, Edwards explained that during his term of service in World War II, when a pilot took off for a mission, there was a very good chance he would not return home.
“Today, because of the efficiency of your inspections, when a pilot gets in that jet, he’s going to be able to do a whole lot of damage to the enemy, but more importantly, he’s going to be safe,” Edwards said. “He’s going to come back home to his wife and children. He’s going to come back home to his mother and father.”
“There were 16,000 Tuskegee Airmen. Of all those people, I’m the only one who witnessed this. I’m the only one who witnessed what you all are doing in the military. I know those Tuskegee Airmen who have died, who can’t be with us today, they would be proud to know what you all are doing here today.”
Completing his 5,000th inspection with a Tuskegee Airman by his side left quite the impression on Frye.
“Reaching this milestone with Sergeant Edwards was phenomenal,” he said. “It was awesome to be a part of history. History is really what it was, mixing the past with the present. That was a really neat thing. Seeing what it meant to him and knowing what it meant to me was phenomenal. No words can describe what it felt like.”
As he continues to set the standard for quality assurance, Frye isn’t satisfied just because he has hit this landmark achievement.
“I feel like I’ve got 10,000 more inspections in me,” he said. “I love doing what I do on a day-to-day basis. It’s a challenge every day, but I enjoy doing what I do. I like being able to go out there and help people.”