Maintenance Airman quietly excels

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Saving hundreds of thousands of dollars is something that not many people claim, and not talking about it is something even more unique, but not for Staff Sgt. Julia Meyer.

Meyer deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Abū Nakẖlah, Qatar, earlier this year. She is a fuels systems mechanic, or as she puts it, "finds and fixes fuel leaks and if there's any problem with the fuel system, like a malfunction." Case in point, she identified such a problem during her third deployment. 

"I had put my input in saying how to fix a jet, and they ... wanted to send the jet home," said Meyer about the biggest challenge in her seven-year career.

"So I emailed the people back home, saying: 'Hey, they're trying to send the jet home, and it's probably an easy fix."

The KC-135 Stratotanker provides the core aerial refueling capability for the United States Air Force, and enhances the Air Force's capability to accomplish its primary mission of global reach, according to the Air Force's fact sheet.

Meyer took that mission to the task, said her maintenance squadron commander, Lt. Col. Shane Holmberg.

"Due to her active engagement the unit and the U.S. Air Force was able to stop initiatives to swap out this aircraft," said Holmberg.  "This saved hundreds of thousands of dollars." 

Meyer said that Air National Guard Airmen may sometimes get treated like they don't really know the job, but they prove just the opposite. Her replacement arrived at Al Udeid with the tools she recommended and ended up finding the easy fix that she suggested, said Meyer.

"Basic knowledge of the systems is pretty much what helped me out in that situation," said Meyer.  "We've also had weird jobs, something we've never seen before, and going through one of those really helps you understand the plane better."

Meyer enlisted with the Alaska Air National Guard just after graduating high school. She enlisted for the educational benefits, but her dad also encouraged her.

"My dad was like, you need to get a job," said Meyer.

She served as a drill-status Guardsman and was hired in 2012 by the maintenance squadron as a fulltime technician.

"My favorite part of the job is changing the fuel bladder," said Meyer.

The fuel is carried either in the wings or bladder tanks in the belly of the aircraft, where the cargo compartment is normally located.

"They're pretty big, there are some you can stand up in. If there's a leak in the bladder we have to replace the whole bladder, and you go in, string it out, and have to clean up all inside."

She said that she enjoys temporary duty missions and deployments.

"It's something different, a change of pace," said Meyer. "You are more interactive with the other shops just because there are fewer people who go, and you get more chances to help out and see what the other shops are doing, and maybe even learn a thing or two."

"Being in the Guard has definitely changed me," said Meyer. "I was super shy before I came in, so am definitely more social."

Meyer is among handful of women who serve in maintenance.

"I'm okay with that, I get my own bathroom at work," said Meyer, with a laugh.

Meyer enjoys staying busy both when she's on duty and off. She's working toward earning her private pilot's license and said much of her free time is driven by the seasons of the year.

"I pretty much do anything outdoors and spend time with my dad, who invites me to go with him, fishing or hunting," said Meyer.