Youngest maintainer launches youngest jet at Red Flag
Air Force Airman 1st Class Nathan Kosters, the youngest F-35 crew chief in the 34th Aircraft Maintenance Unit, was born in 1996. “The Macarena” somehow was No. 1 on the charts, “Independence Day” topped the box office, and the F-16 Fighting Falcon had already been flying for 22 years.
The Jan. 23-to-Feb. 10 iteration of Air Force’s premier air combat exercise included both U.S. and allied nations’ combat air forces, providing aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.
“It’s pretty amazing. It’s like a family atmosphere,” Kosters said. “We’re extremely busy, working long hours, but everyone pulls together and makes sure the mission is successful.”
Inspired by His Father
Growing up, he learned hard work from his father, a carpenter. He learned how to get up early and work until the job was done. The two worked side by side, he said, even throughout his father’s cancer treatments. “He is an inspiration to me — never giving up,” Kosters said. “Working was a great opportunity to be close to him.”
Kosters joined the Air Force a little over a year ago after graduating from high school and working in construction for awhile, because he wanted to leave the Midwest, get an education and see the world, he said. He got high scores on his entrance test, and the F-35 maintenance world, hungry for new talent, put him in the pipeline.
“I didn’t really know anything about the F-35,” Kosters said. “I knew it was the newest jet, and I heard all the negative press about it. My dad and I started reading up on it. He probably knew more about it than I did.”
After technical training and hands-on experience, Kosters said, he is happy he is where he is.
“It’s cool, working with the latest technology, he added. “I don’t want to make it sound like maintenance is easy. It’s just advanced. It’s great to be able to plug in a laptop and talk to the aircraft.”
Based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the 34th Fighter Squadron and Aircraft Maintenance Unit are the first combat-coded F-35A units in the Air Force. They were created by bringing together a team of experienced pilots and maintainers from across the Air Force’s F-35 test and training units. Kosters was one of the first pipeline maintainers to join the 34th AMU straight from basic training and tech school, and Red Flag is valuable experience for that greener group.
“At home, our young maintenance airmen are practicing and learning every day. Here, we’re able to put that training into a realistic scenario and watch them succeed and learn how to overcome challenges,” said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Robert Soto, lead production superintendent for the 34th AMU.
“It’s not glorious,” Kosters said. “You’re not working 9 to 5. Your uniform is not going to stay nice and clean. But, next to being a pilot, I feel like I have the best job there is. It’s gratifying to see those jets take off.”
Kosters said he and his fellow maintainers take pride as they hear from pilots how their aircraft are performing in the fight.
“It’s had its doubters in the world, but it’s nice to prove people wrong with all eyes on us, especially here,” Kosters said. “The first couple missions, it was the F-35 versus everyone else, and our guys were showing them that the F-35 is a superior plane. We’re like varsity.”
- U.S. Forces Conduct Strike Against ISIS Training Camps in Yemen
- Coalition Monitors Military Movements Near Kirkuk, Pentagon Spokesman Says
- California Guardsmen Help Manage Evacuation Center
- Airmen Deliver Food, Water to Inland Puerto Rico
- Face of Defense: Soldier's Short Career is Long on Experiences
- Officials Provide Details of Latest Strikes Against ISIS
Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter .
This is what Iran will do if the US pulls out of the nuke deal
President Trump is threatening to back out of the Iran nuclear deal — in direct opposition of the other five countries involved. Here is what Iran thinks.
5 military movies you should look out for in 2018
These are some of the handful of military-related movies hitting the screens next year that look like they could be worth the price of admission.
Why Hollywood prescribes pot to its veteran characters with PTS
A new Netflix comedy takes a lighthearted look at the growing use of medical marijuana to treat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress.
Does this picture show the US covertly moving SEALs into Korea?
The USS Michigan stopped in Busan for a "routine port visit," but pictures of the event suggest a more clandestine purpose that may involve US Navy SEALs.
How ISIS became a 'pathetic and a lost cause' after the fall of Raqqa
Special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk tweeted photos of a mass ISIS surrender.
Here is how the MLRS became a 44-mile sniper
The M31 Guided Unitary Rocket can put 200 pounds of high explosive within 30 feet of its aimpoint. That'll ruin a bad guy's day.
These 10 letters kids sent to deployed troops will make you smile
From moms who drink wine to soldier kitties saying 'meow,' these hilarious letters to troops will warm your heart.
This robotic Kobra bites IEDs and can move an NFL lineman
The life-saving bite of this Kobra isn't its only impressive feature.
This is how a dress code change won us Guadalcanal
At a critical stage in the War of the Pacific, Vice Admiral William "Bull" Halsey returned to action ripping open his dress shirt like a sailor Hulk.