AMXS Airman keeps C-130Js flying

Story and photo by Airman 1st Class Holly Mansfield
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Airman 1st Class Caitlin Schaefer, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, checks her tools before a preflight inspection on a C-130J Super Hercules Feb. 25. Each Airman inspects their tools before use to check for damage to ensure proper maintenance is being utilized.
Airman 1st Class Caitlin Schaefer, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, checks her tools before a preflight inspection on a C-130J Super Hercules Feb. 25. Each Airman inspects their tools before use to check for damage to ensure proper maintenance is being utilized.

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a three part series about first-term Airmen working different jobs at Ramstein.

Many things can discourage young Airmen arriving at a new base, let alone a new country. Fortunately for one Airman, she was able to overcome any concerns by using her core values to come up with solutions and make those worries fly away.

Being away from family, especially around the holidays, and having to acquire an entirely new set of skills in a short amount of time can be tough. Airman 1st Class Caitlin Schaefer, 86th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, leaned on her fellow Airmen to help her get through in-processing.


“I got here the Sunday before Thanksgiving,” Schaefer said. “I started RIP (Ramstein in-processing) line on Monday, and the next week I began FTAC (First Term Airman Center). The whole cycle was really fast.”

The stress of learning a vast amount in a short time while being a female in a male-dominated career field has brought Schaefer closer to her core values.

“Being in a male dominated career field doesn’t really matter to me at the end of the day, because we have one mission: send our birds up,” she said. “If we are doing an inspection and skip something, it could be life threatening, and that is something we need to take seriously. It could mean people’s lives.”

To Schaefer, “Excellence in all we do” is one of the more important core values and uses it every day with even the smallest of tasks like picking up trash off the ground.

“She is an excellent and motivated worker out on the flightline,” said Master Sgt. Shannon Smith, 86th AMXS section chief. “She is a team player, and the other Airmen here really like working with her.”

Having the integrity to do what’s right, even when others around might not do the same thing, can be hard for some first-term Airmen. However, for Schaefer, being a role model for others who are younger than her is something that comes naturally.

“I’m a little older in age than some new Airmen, so I have had a little more life experience than them by going through college,” Schaefer said. “Being able to live in Germany is such an awesome experience the Air Force has given me, and I am very grateful for my job and this opportunity.”

Core values, strong bonds with peers and supervisors, and a strong work ethic have proven to be three key factors in Schaefer’s success. Showing others that first-term Airmen can accomplish the same goals as more experienced Airmen has brought her to the forefront of her squadron to keep Ramstein flying.