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Arctic Airman Crew Chief and Summer Fisherman

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Julie Avey
  • 168th Wing

Fishing is part of the mission for one Airman here at the 168th Wing, as a Guardsman Staff Sgt. David Thurman serves as a crew chief on the KC-135 Stratotanker in the Alaska Air National Guard, and in the summer months, you will find him out on the water as a commercial fisherman.

“I come from a family of fishermen, and I’m proud to carry on the tradition,” said Thurman. “In the summer, you can find me hauling in the catch of the day, but for the rest of the year, I trade in my fishing boots for my uniform.”

As a crew chief, he is responsible for getting the KC-135 fleet off the ground, working with other maintenance specialists. He ensures the air refueling aircraft is ready to provide air-to-air refueling for partners and allies throughout the Pacific theater and around the world.

Inspecting aircraft, identifying, troubleshooting, and resolving issues with the help of the pilot’s input, cleaning, and preparing the aircraft for the next mission is part of his duties.

“You know the saying, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” said Thurman. “Well, that’s where my job comes into the picture, and I fix it. I’m responsible for ensuring these beautiful birds stay in the air from pre-flight to post-flight checks. I take pride in keeping our planes in top shape so our pilots can focus on completing the mission.”

Born in Fairbanks and raised in Dillingham, Alaska, he takes a lot of pride in his state as both a fisherman and a Guardsman.

“Serving in the Air National Guard allows me to give back to my community and protect our freedoms at the same time,” said Thurman. “The camaraderie and sense of purpose I get from serving alongside my fellow service members is second to none.”

Thurman added, “Plus, this is the only job I found that gives me enough time off during the summer to fish.”

Thurman has served in the Alaska Air National Guard for six years. He is a drill-status guardsman or a traditional guardsman who serves part-time. As a DSG Airman, he has opportunities to serve on additional orders to ensure the aircraft is fully mission capable 24/7.

While he isn’t on the flight line as an Arctic Airman in the negative temperatures, he is fishing in Alaskan waters. Thurman has been a commercial fisherman for 20 years. His grandfather began fishing for sustenance and taught his mother how to fish. His mom and stepfather taught him how to fish at 10 years old, and he has spent his entire life at a fish camp, spending time with family. His mom and stepfather began a commercial fishing business and then transferred it to him. He transferred the fishing business to his brother, whom he still fishes with, and will eventually pass it down to their children to keep it in the family.

“I continue to serve in the Air National Guard because it is family oriented,” said Thurman. “It is fun, and everyone works well together.”

Family means a lot to him.

“A lot of time is spent with family, and we enjoy hiking and outside activities,” said Thurman.

When asked about his favorite part of Alaska, he said, “The scenery and how much-untouched land we have that we are able to explore. There is no other place I would rather live. I’ve lived outside the state before, and I’ve always returned to Alaska, where I grew up.”

Thurman enjoys home remodeling and building as some of his other hobbies. He also used to work for the Alaska Housing Authority.

“I’m a DIY’er- I enjoy home improvements,” said Thurman.