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Taming a Raptor; an F-22 crew chief’s mission

Man types on a computer

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Ritchie, 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-22 Raptor crew chief, records his duty tasks at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 14, 2021. After any maintenance is completed on an aircraft, the maintainer must log their tasks to keep a record of all maintenance the aircraft has recieved. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price)

Man squats beneath a place to inspect it

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Jacob Ritchie, 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-22 Raptor crew chief, inspects the underside of an F-22 at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 14, 2021. The F-22 is a leading catalyst in the Air Force's ability to provide decisive air dominance and must be properly inspected and maintained before and after every flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price)

the air intake of an F-22 raptor and two men working in the background

U.S. Air Force Airmen assigned to the 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct post-flight procedures on an F-22 Raptor at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 14, 2021. The jet's intake must be plugged with specialized pads, usually bearing the home unit's emblem, after each flight to keep any foreign objects from damaging the intatake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price)

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla. --

The 325th Fighter Wing recently mobilized more than 250 personnel to Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, in July, to support the F-22 Formal Training Unit capstone where student pilots participate in dissimilar air combat training.

Fourteen F-22 Raptors assigned to the 43d Fighter Squadron are flying for this training exercise. While the Raptor is a leading catalyst in the Air Force’s ability to provide decisive air dominance, tactical aircraft maintainers ensure the mission’s success.

Airman 1st Class Jacob Ritchie, 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron F-22 crew chief, is one of the many who temporarily relocated to support the training mission.

“My number one priority while preparing for this TDY to Key West was ensuring we had all the right tools and technical orders,” said Ritchie. “We want to make sure all of our equipment makes it to the destination before the pilots do so we can set up everything we might need to complete daily tasks, just like we would back at home station.”

Originally from Canterbury, Connecticut, Ritchie has been stationed at Eglin Air Force Base with the 325th AMXS since March 2020. Ritchie is assigned as the assistant dedicated crew chief to the 43d Fighter Squadron’s “flagship”, a jet whose tail flash bears the 43d FS name. He takes pride in the work it takes to maintain an F-22’s ability to project unrivaled combat airpower.

“There is no better satisfaction than completing either the most simple or most complicated maintenance and getting to watch your jet takeoff safely,” said Ritchie.

While Ritchie did not choose the tactical maintenance career field upon joining the Air Force, he explained he has come to enjoy it, and the people he’s met throughout his time as a crew chief have made an incredible impact on his life. His dedication to the mission is not unnoticed.

“Airman Ritchie’s willingness to get out and work sets him apart from others,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Kent, 325th AMXS crew chief and Ritchie’s supervisor. “A lot of people don’t really want this job, so they go out and do what they need to do. Airman Ritchie didn’t necessarily want this job either, but he makes the most of it and brings a motivation to actually want to get out on the flight line and work.”

Ritchie is currently working to obtain a bachelor's degree so he can commission and fly with the rest of the 43d FS pilots.

“I’ve seen and supported their mission as a crew chief; now I want to do what they do,” said Ritchie. “Until I can reach the goal of flying with the 43d, I’m going to work my hardest to prove no matter what career field you’re in, it’s exactly what you make it to be.”