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Everyday Heroes

Jesse Zachry

 

January 6, 2017

Ana Padilla

Jesse Zachary presented a flag to the ROTC Farmington High School commander, which was flown on a c0mbat mission in Afghanistan on one of the aircrafts that he worked on

Hopefully many of you read part one of "Everyday Heroes" featuring Mary Jane Louton. Part two features Jesse Zachry, currently serving in Afghanistan under contract as an aircraft mechanic for the Army and Air Force.

Jesse enlisted with the Army in 1974. He did his basic training in Fort Ord, California, then was assigned to Fort Eustis, Virginia where he attended the AIT school for Schnook Helicopter Repairman training.

For the first three years of his six year commitment to the Army he was stationed stateside. He spent the last 3 years in Germany working on Schnook Helicopters. Upon receiving an honorable discharge Jesse enrolled at Colorado Aero Tech School in Broomfield, Colorado where he obtained his A&P (Air frame and Power Plant) license. The A&P has an FAA rating similar to a pilot's rating except it's for mechanics. Jesse also received his IA (Inspection Authorization) license from the FAA which required additional written and oral exams. You may only apply for it after a minimum of 3 consecutive and uninterrupted years of aircraft maintenance after obtaining your A&P license.

Upon his return to the states Jesse could pretty much write his own ticket on the employment line. With his qualifications and service experience he was sought after by several potential employers.

While visiting his sister in Corpus Christi, Texas he decided he really liked the area and decided to relocate. He worked for 15 years all along the Gulf coast doing off shore helicopter Support for Off Shore Drilling Rigs.

In 1994 Jesse took a trip to Navajo Dam, along with his dad, sister and brother-in-law to fish the world renown San Juan River. They had a great time and were enthralled with the beauty of the cliffs, rock formations and especially the fishing. On the trip back to Texas they started formulating a plan enabling them to move to Navajo Dam.

May 27, 1995 Jesse married his sweetheart, Candy Barr, and four days later they were on their way to Navajo Dam where they reside today. Moving from the Dallas/Fort Worth area to our little community was a culture shock, especially for Candy who had never been here before. After a rocky start, Jesse and Candy adapted to life at Navajo Dam. Jesse soon found employment with Mesa Air lines which was based at the Farmington Airport. He worked for eight years doing maintenance on Beechcraft 1900s also known as King Air Aircraft. The knowledge and experience he gained qualified him to work on the Army and Air Force C12s which are also King Air.

I met Jesse shortly after he moved to Navajo Dam, when he joined the Volunteer Fire Dept. Jesse has always been civic minded and was eager to participate in helping our community. He served for five years until he left for Germany on his first contract assignment for the US. Government.

For the last 14 years Jesse has worked overseas. First alternating between Germany and Afghanistan where he worked helicopter reset, bringing the aircraft back from Afghanistan or Iraq and totally tearing them down to be rebuilt and sent back out. For the last five years he has been exclusively in Afghanistan. Jesse has worked in every aspect of aircraft maintenance and has worn a multitude of different hats. He has changed out propellers and engines, done logistics, spent time in the hanger on phase maintenance, he has worked on the flight line platforms and done sheet metal repair. Jesse has done it all and done it well.

Training is ongoing. The minute his boots hit the ground he is escorted to a class room to be briefed on the latest training and (GOP) General Operating Procedures. Every contract is different depending on what branch of the service he is with and what level of security is needed.

The climate in Afghanistan is always the same: Summers are excruciatingly hot and winters are extremely cold. From about July to October they have to contend with 120 days of continual strong winds and sand storms.

Typically the aircraft fly 5 hour missions completing three missions a day. While working on the flightline platform maintenance does launch and recover of aircraft. Flightline maintenance crews are running up and down the line. Every flight has a full blown daily inspection prior to launch. Between flights they refuel and fix whatever discrepancies are found. All this is accomplished between the time a plane lands and takes off. The maintenance crews have approximately a half hour to an hour-and-a-half window to accomplish their tasks. By the end of the day aircraft have flown 15 hours in a 24 hour period. Once an aircraft has flown 200 hours it is moved to a hanger for an intensive phase inspection.

A hanger crew works around the clock. There are two 12 hour shifts in the hanger where they turn aircraft out in a 24 to 48 hour period. It takes skill, determination and coordination to keep the aircraft rotated and kept in the air.

Jesse loves what he does and even though it is a hardship to spend so much time away from home, his greatest pleasure is the honor of serving.

Ana Padilla

Jesse Zachary

In his own words Jesse told me, "I do it to support our troops. That's the whole reason for being there. It's a sacrifice for me but it's not like the sacrifice that the men and women pay for protecting our nation. It's one thing to be in the military and be bound to serve in a war zone but 75 -80% of our soldiers don't go to the war zones, they protect us in the United States but those guys going down there to Afghanistan, Iraq, or any war zone somebody has to help them. It's hard on me and it takes dedication on my part but it's not like the sacrifice that they put out when they place their lives on the line for us. My main goal is to give them a secure platform so they can go do their jobs as safe as possible – that's all I can do."

He added, "This is personal to me and I haven't even told Candy this but every time they take off I say a little prayer for them. I feel that any extra protection they can get and if I can act as a conduit that's what I'm gonna do."

 

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