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News > Crew chief to join Thunderbirds
Staff Sgt. Paul Degrechie, 56th Maintenance Operations Squadron quality assurance inspector, has been chosen to be a member of the Thunderbirds. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Sandra Welch)
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Crew chief to join Thunderbirds

Posted 3/8/2010   Updated 3/8/2010 Email story   Print story


by Airman 1st Class Melanie Iannaggi
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

3/8/2010 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- From the earliest moments of learning how to be a crew chief in technical school, Staff Sgt. Paul Degrechie, aspired to be part of something great. The dreams began 11 years ago and will soon become a reality. He is scheduled to leave in June for Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., to be a Thunderbird.

Sergeant Degrechie, 56th Maintenance Operations Squadron quality assurance inspector, will join two other members from Luke AFB, Capt. Kristen Hubbard, 62nd Fighter Squadron instructor pilot, and Master Sgt. Manuel Gonzalez, 756th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendant, as members of the U.S. Air Force Demonstration Team.

"Being part of the Thunderbirds for me is like being on Broadway for an actor," Sergeant Degrechie said. "It's going to challenge me and my maintaining abilities and will expand my knowledge in the career field."

After going through an extensive application process, which included submitting letters of recommendation and his last five enlisted performance reports, Sergeant Degrechie was selected to be part of the team.

"When I found out the good news I was extremely excited," he said. "I had a lot of support from my wife and two children."

Sergeant Degrechie said the first 21 days, which is like an initiation process, are going to be difficult.

"It will consist of 12-hour shifts Monday through Friday and four-hour shifts on the weekends," he said. "We have to learn the history of the Thunderbirds, meet 120 people by the 19th day, pass a physical fitness test, score an 85 percent or higher on the final test and go through an evaluation board at the end."

If he makes it through the first three weeks, Sergeant Degrechie said his goal is to be the No. 8 crew chief.

"It is a very tough position to get," he said. "Because the No. 8 jet is a two-seater D-model, the crew chief actually flies in the jet while traveling to temporary duty stations."

When his two-year special assignment ends, he said he would like to be stationed overseas.

"Anywhere in Europe would be great," Sergeant Degrechie said. "I want to explore it with my family and hopefully make chief or senior master sergeant before I retire."

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