919th SOW recognizes first African American female crew chief

  • Published
  • By Michelle Gigante
  • 919th Special Operations Wing

It is fairly common in the 919th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron to transition from one airframe to a new non-standard aircraft system. While legacy aircraft phase out, aircrew members advance respectively, and one Citizen Air Commando’s name has become a part of 919th Special Operation Wing’s history as the first African American female crew chief.

1st Lt. Alyson Sasser, 919th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron fuels and vehicle maintenance flight commander started her Reserve career with the 919th SOAMXS in 2012. At that time, she was a staff sergeant. She had some basic maintenance knowledge under her belt from technical school, but still had more to learn as a new junior force member.

“I didn’t know the difference between a hammer and a screwdriver,” exaggerated Sasser. “I chose the job because it was one of the openings that really interested me, and I was told I could get my name on a side of a plane.”

Unfortunately, the personalized stickers she prized to see her name on were phasing out, just like the MC-130 Combat Talons. What did stick was one embarrassing moment.

She shared a memory about when her team taught her a training lesson to help ease her into the air crew family. It was also a time they all came together as a group collectively to share a laugh.

On this occasion, she was asked to perform an aircraft maintenance check, what her teammates called an “echo check.”

“Basically, they wanted me to yell into the intake on the engine, and some device allegedly would register echoes to see if there were cracks in there,” said Sasser. “So, I am like, cool, it sounded legit, so I got up there on the ladder and started screaming into four different quadrants of this engine and they are recording it.”

Later that day she shared with one of her crew chief friends who was in training as well about what she did that day.

“He asked who the new guy is,” said Sasser. “He was like wow, they got you, and that’s how I found out they pranked me. From then on, I tightened up and it was things like that which made us grow more as a family when things got stressful.”

Soon after her work ethic and personnel pride were immediately evident in each task she was assigned, as well as her passion to motivate and inspire people.

In March 2018, she promoted to technical sergeant. She continued to help her fellow Airmen learn and develop their respective talents.

“Sasser performed as a phenomenal crew chief and aircraft maintenance professional,” said Chief Master Sgt. Mark Harrell, 919th Special Operations Wing Aircraft Maintenance superintendent. “The one thing that comes to mind was a color fun run she organized to build pride and esprit de corps throughout the Wing.”

While Sasser didn’t get her name on an aircraft as hoped, her continuous determination to excel, and educate herself in the maintenance field, garnered her much praise and a promotion.

Under the leadership of Lt. Col. Terrell Eikner, now Air Force Reserve Command 315th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander, recognized her leadership talents and growth opportunities and selected her to become who she is now, 1st. Lt. Sasser.

“Through the entire commissioning process, she consistently held to her core attributes of people first,” said Harrell.” “Lt. Sasser is a singular example of what a person can achieve if given any opportunity.”

Sasser’s depth of experience within the Wing brought her new perspective.

 “I learned to be flexible, adapt, and be resilient to be ready to go,” said Sasser. “Change is scary, and a challenge, but one of things I have noticed, being a part of it, is regardless of skin color, your gender, people learn how to adapt, and that’s one of the things I love, because regardless of what is happening or what comes out of it, or what’s next, we get it done.”