Sergeant experiences life as a crew chief

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kenny Holston
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
As she bounded off the aircraft ramp, an F-16 Fighting Flacon taxied away in the opposite direction. She wore a grin from ear-to-ear. She took off her sunglass while a few of the crew chiefs asked about her experience.

As she fixed her mouth to answer the only word she was able to come up with was, "Wow!"

"Wow! I loved doing that! It was so awesome! What an experience," she exclaimed.

Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Tyburski, 20th Communications Squadron out of Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., received a rare opportunity to do something very view Airmen who are not crew chiefs get to do -- prep and launch a fighter jet.

Tyburski launched a 79th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcon with the help and supervision of Staff Sgt. Dominic Perrone, 20th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief.

Tyburski, who has been in the Air Force for a little more than seven years and is a Hinesville, Ala., native, describes herself as, "somewhere between girly and tomboyish."

For the most part, she has an office job working as a communication client service technician that she enjoys, but she also isn't afraid to get her hands dirty, she said.

"When I come to work here I put on makeup, but yet I want to go out and launch an aircraft," explained the blond headed communication technician.

When Tyburski was selected by her unit to attend Red Flag 13-3, a combat training exercise involving the U.S. Air Force and its allies at Nellis AFB, she didn't think twice about it, she explained. She simply geared up for the three week assignment and arrived prepared to provide communication support to the pilots and crew chiefs of the 79th Fighter Squadron and maintenance unit.

Little did she know by the end of the exercise she would be using her communication skills in a way she had never imagined.

After arriving at Nellis, Tyburski began her duties just like everyone else. She started getting computers set up so crew chiefs could access them to log aircraft data while ensuring the unit also had access to printers and other needed communication assets.

Being one of the few communication technicians from Shaw AFB, Tyburski spent a lot of her time with the crew chiefs to help provide them with communication support. She had been up and down the aircraft ramp with them and even witnessed them carry out their duties of maintaining, prepping and launching F-16s. By this time, she had established great rapport with them but never thought they would ask if she wanted a more in-depth look into their world.

"I was just sitting here with the crew chiefs going about my normal day and they asked, 'Hey do you want to launch one of the jets?' Without hesitation I said, 'yeah!'" she said.

Excited about the opportunity, she was sure to tell her family about what she had done.

Tyburski comes from a military family. Her husband, Staff Sgt. Joseph Tyburski is assigned to the 20th Security Forces Squadron at Shaw AFB, and her father, Patrick Merritt a retired Army Sgt. 1st Class who spent a lot of his career around UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. When Tyburski's dad and husband heard about her launching an F-16, they were excited.

"My dad and husband thought it was awesome that I got to go out and experience something like this," Tyburski said. "My dad was around Black Hawks his whole Army career, so he's kind of partial to the maintainer side of aviation."

The job of a crew chief is vast and requires great attention to detail and dedication. Without these characteristics pilots' lives could be at stake, Perrone said.

As Tyburski reflected on what it was like to perform a few crew chief duties, she explained the pressure of wanting to execute the task well.

"The experience was awesome, but I have to say, I was a little nervous," she said. "You don't ever want to mess something like that up. There's a lot of weight on those crew chiefs shoulders to make sure everything is good with the jet; the last thing you want to do is miss something."
Despite her nerves Tyburski performed the launch without any glitches.

"She did a pretty good job," Perrone said. "I went over everything with her prior to the launch, and she seemed to grasp it without a problem. I walked her through it and she performed well."

Perrone has given his time more than once to NCOs like Tyburski by offering them a taste of what it's like to be a dedicated crew chief.

"I enjoy and appreciate being able to give others an opportunity to see some of what we do," Perrone said. "I think by getting a closer look they are able to see there's more to it than they think, as we are in part responsible for the pilot's lives."

For Tyburski, this statement rang true. She not only gained the opportunity to experience some of what crew chiefs do, but she developed a more profound respect for their job.