Through Airmen's Eyes: 18th CMS NCO inspires excellence
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Kadena is home to an array of aircraft designed to perform an assortment of mission sets from cargo transportation to air superiority, but mission accomplishment can't be done without the support of ground crew.
That's why it takes a team of fuel systems experts from the 18th Component Maintenance Squadron like Staff Sgt. Thomas Lewellen to ensure the jets take to the sky.
"To work on an aircraft, especially an aircraft that you know is going to do a mission, a real-world mission to fix an aircraft; and then see a pilot instantly step into it and take off, to make the mission happen, that is absolutely the best," said Lewellen.
Lewellen has worked on aircraft for his nine years in the Air Force. Considered to be the most knowledgeable person in his shop concerning his work with fuels and F-15s, he finds the time to combine performing his own with supervising and mentoring Airmen.
Though the NCO spent most of his time working on F-15s, he's worked with numerous other aircraft. When new aircraft were added to his shop, he demonstrated an unheard of ability to adapt to these changes.
"Within one day of a training course, he was already out on a KC-135 and was troubleshooting," said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Little, 18th CMS Assistant Section Chief at the Aircraft Fuel Systems Repair Facility, who has known Lewellen for slightly over one year. "He's the tip of the spear."
As an NCO however, it's not enough to just be the best. Instead, as a supervisor, it's imperative that knowledge is imparted on the next generation - another area in which Lewellen shines.
"I'm a firm believer in actually leading, showing them how to do it, leading them through it, and then letting them show you what they have done the next time the task needs to happen," said Lewellen. "Just telling them to do something would be supervising or managing, not leading."
As his Airmen complete their tasks, Lewellen provides them with feedback. He believes in using positive feedback in order to keep up their morale.
Not only does he do his best to raise morale, Lewellen also boosts the overall well-being of his Airmen. He can be approached about issues not related to the shop environment.
According to Senior Airman Elizabeth Melton, 18th CMS fuels systems journeyman and Lewellen's subordinate, he is approachable not only by his own Airmen that he supervises, but also the other Airmen in his shop.
"I've never had a supervisor who asked me every single day how I'm doing," Melton said. "He lets me know that it's an open-door policy and that if I ever have a problem, I know that I can go to him. I know that it's okay to tell him if anything's wrong. I know he'll help me if I need to be helped."
In addition to his concern about the success of his Airmen's personal lives, Lewellen also cares about his Airmen's professional success. He encourages his Airmen to try their best at progressing in their careers.
"It makes me feel better whenever I can take a brand-new Airman out of (technical) school and mold them and then later down the years, see them doing great things," said Lewellen. "Quarterly awards, annual awards, below the zone; it's not only rewarding for them, but it's rewarding for a supervisor also, because you help that process."
Lewellen has worked with Melton for four years, and is now in a supervisory position over her. Their relationship is a great example of how he cares for the Airmen that he supervises.
"Sgt. Lewellen is a prime example of a great supervisor," said Melton. "He wants to see you succeed and vice-versa. When we succeed, he succeeds; he's just a great all-around supervisor - one of the best I've ever had, definitely. He is a rockstar."