LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. --
A flight engineer, who is an enlisted member of the aircraft’s flight crew, monitors and operates the aircraft’s complex systems. To become a flight engineer, an Airman must first have a feeder Air Force specialty code in one of many maintenance career fields within the Air National Guard. The service member must also be selected over peers to participate in the program. The entire course is approximately 11 months, with six of the months at Little Rock Air Force Base for academic and flying training. From C-130H simulator training to performing on the actual aircraft, Corker broadened her perception and knowledge of the flight engineer career field.
“As soon as she got here we realized she was an above average student and we wanted to cut her training short,” said Master Sgt. David Roles, the 154th TRS lead flight engineer instructor. “She actually only had eight of each training event, which is not the norm. I’ve never seen anyone proficiency advance that much before. We had to check the regulations to make sure we could even do that.”
Support and encouragement is essential to the success of anyone who is ready to set goals and new milestones in their life. Corker attributes her drive to excellence to her father, who taught her to always give 110 percent in everything she does. She applies this outlook throughout her life as well as in her prior career field as a C-130 crew chief. While her father encouraged her throughout her life, her previous supervisor played a key role in her decision to pursue the goal of becoming a flight engineer.
“My supervisor from my old shop definitely instilled in me the work ethic that I have now,” said Corker. “I knew from the beginning that I always wanted to fly, and he cheered me on the whole way when I told him what I wanted to do. He was fully supportive of me.”
Corker said she always knew she wanted to be aircrew. Her prior experience in the maintenance career field was a choice she made in order to ensure she was familiar with all aspects of the aircraft, making her future goal as a flight engineer possible. While she always carried the prospect of becoming aircrew, her path became clear during an exercise she participated in that allowed her to see first-hand what a flight engineer does.
“I’ve always had an interest in becoming aircrew. Watching everyone work made me realize that becoming a flight engineer was just what seemed right for me,” Corker said. “Being a prior maintainer definitely helped, but I didn’t see any reason not to give my all and maybe add a little extra effort in there. I’m excited to learn more and do more as a go forward and move on.”
Throughout the course, Corker learned the different responsibilities of her new career field. From training in the flight simulator to flying in the C-130H, the steps she took to complete her training were tedious and time-consuming, but worth the effort in the end. She deems her success at the 154th TRS to not only her military background, but also to her instructors she had throughout the duration of her time at the unit.
“Putting everything you’ve learned together and finally getting to fly, that’s that was my favorite part of this whole process,” Corker said. “It’s really cool how it all works when you finally get to do the job.”
It takes a dedicated person to become an instructor. Handing down knowledge from one flight engineer to another takes patience and perseverance on all levels. While it is sometimes a tedious and seemingly unrewarding task, instructors within the unit explain that every step is worth the challenge. Roles explains that watching a student finally grasp an idea they have been struggling to understand is one of the most rewarding parts of his job.
“I enjoy being able to teach brand new individuals regardless of what stage in their career they are, they volunteered to become an enlisted flyer,” said Master Sgt. Jason Terry, the 154th TRS assistant flight engineer superintendent. “Teaching them and sharing relevant experiences here and the things you’ve encountered as a flight engineer in an operational unit is very rewarding.”