The Mentor of the Skies

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael Killian
  • 6th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – In the high-stakes world of aircraft maintenance, few roles are as demanding or rewarding as that of a Flying Crew Chief (FCC), and at the center of this operation is Staff Sergeant Ben Kellum.

Kellum's unique position involves accompanying aircraft on missions all over the World, a stark contrast to the regular crew chief's role.

Kellum's experience spans across continents, from Europe to Africa, witnessing the Northern Lights and engaging in NATO operations like Operation Baltic Trident.

His international assignments weren't just about maintenance; they were about overcoming language barriers, fostering international relations, and training with NATO allies. In Lithuania, near Russia's border, Kellum's expertise was crucial in training Lithuanian forces in aircraft de-icing and crash recovery procedures.

His expertise and leadership were particularly evident during a mission in Nigeria. After a hazardous landing that resulted in blown tires and overheated brakes, Kellum and his team navigated through a daunting situation in a politically sensitive environment, showcasing exceptional crisis management skills.

However, it's not just Kellum's technical prowess that makes him stand out; it's his commitment to his Airmen. He recalls helping multiple Airmen over the course of his career, overcoming personal and professional hurdles and guiding them towards success. These stories of mentorship underscore Kellum's philosophy: caring for and investing in people.

“Kellum’s really the reason I was able to rank up to Staff Sergeant this year.” said Frierdich, a flying crew chief assigned to the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall. “When he and I were on deployment together, he taught me pretty much everything I needed to know about the new air frame extremely quickly and would take time out of his day to help us.”

As he approaches his ninth year in the Air Force, Kellum eyes the future with ambition and a sense of duty. He hopes to go to training bases like Sheppard Air Force Base, where he can share his technical and interpersonal skills with the next generation of crew chiefs.

“Every situation requires an equal, nuanced and thoughtful response,” said Kellum. “You can’t just handle everything with a hammer, when warranted I try to always treat people with compassion.”

Staff Sergeant Ben Kellum's story is more than a tale of technical mastery; it's a testament to the power of dedicated leadership and the impact one individual can have on shaping the future of the Air Force's maintenance corps. His journey reflects a commitment not just to the mission but to the people who make it possible.

For Kellum and the airmen he mentors, the sky isn't the limit; it's just the beginning.