Lifeblood of a squadron

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tiffany M. Deuel
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Engines are roaring, Airmen are working and 28 F-15s are being prepared for flight.

Amidst all the chaos to get the aircrews out and on their way to support the first F-15E Strike Eagle airstrikes of Operation Odyssey Dawn, one man kept more than 290 Airmen on the path for success. Capt. William Bernecker, former 48th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Officer in Charge.

"The [494th Aircraft Maintenance Unit] packed up and deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy where we [then] proceeded to Libya," said Bernecker. "Though there were several units that had a huge contribution into the operations at Aviano, it was the 494th that carried the torch and set the pace for the entire operation."

Bernecker not only led through OOD, but also worked alongside his Airmen, paving the way to success in the build up for supporting operations.

"Every single deployment and exercise requires us to pack out the majority of our tools," said Tech. Sgt. Michel Nelson, 48th AMXS Airframe Powerplant General assistant section chief. "In the beginning we were struggling to make sure all was correct but by working with Captain Bernecker hand in hand, we developed this in the most efficient manner with no items being left behind."

Along with his performance during OOD, Bernecker and his unit were pivotal in generating aircraft which helped the 48th Fighter Wing receive an 'Outstanding' rating during the 2010 United States Air Forces in Europe Operational Readiness Inspection.

"The 494th Fighter Squadron was the only unit that generated for the exercise," said Bernecker. "The outstanding work done by the maintainers in the unit and support from everyone else in the 48th Maintenance Group contributed to receiving the first 'Outstanding' rating in 24 years in USAFE."

For these and other accomplishments made by himself and his unit, Bernecker was presented with the Gen. Lew Allen Jr. Trophy by U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. This trophy is awarded annually to a base-level officer and senior non-commissioned officer in the aircraft, missile and maintenance fields directly involved in sortie generation.

Although the trophy was presented to Bernecker, he could not have earned it without the team he leads.

"What contributed to the award were the amazing achievements of the 494th AMU," said Bernecker.

"These accomplishments, along with TDYs, local and USAFE inspections, local flying, combat training and a deployment to Kunsan Air Base, Korea, all came together for what we believe was a unit-winning award."

As the military goes, Bernecker is moving on to his new assignment at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, but he will remember his time here at RAF Lakenheath.

"Working with the 494th AMU has been the best experience of my career," said Bernecker. "The dedication, hard-work and camaraderie that we had in the unit are unparalleled to that of any other maintenance unit."

Though he moves on to a new assignment, he leaves behind his mark on the 494th AMU.

"Many people will walk in and out of our life here, but only true leaders and friends will leave footprints in our hearts as big as Captain Bernecker has," said Nelson. "Our only hope is that his replacement can make as much of an impact as he has done and continue to spread his vision of success by utilizing all of this squadron's potential as Captain Bernecker did before."