Howard McKellip: Molding “Mission Ready Airmen”

Over the past fifty years, Howard McKellip has watched AGE (Aerospace Ground Equipment) develop into one of the most sophisticated career fields in the Air Force, here is his whole story, expanded from Ground Support Magazine.

Q: How did you get into the GSE/AGE industry?

A: I enlisted in the Air Force. Since the Korean Conflict was on and several of my friends were being drafted I thought I had better make a selection as to what branch of the service I wanted. So I enlisted with no specific career field in mind. I grew up working in my father’s service station/garages. So I guess I was destined to get into a career field that consisted of mechanical/electrical systems. While in basic training I was given a battery of tests to determine what career field I qualified for. The tests consisted of mechanical, electrical, general and administrative subjects. Based on my aptitude test scores being high in the mechanical/electrical I was placed into the automotive career field as at that time there was no Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE) career field. I went to technical training at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, WY. The automotive technical training consisted of three areas. Students entered into fundamentals and received basic principles of electrical, engines (gasoline/ diesel) and chassis and drives. According to how a person scored in their written and performance tests he/she was placed into one of the three areas. I scored high in engines and electrical. After graduating from technical training I was given a special duty assignment into Security Service Command. I was sent to Germany, England and Scotland. I was assigned to the automotive maintenance shop where I performed maintenance on all types of engines. I also maintained mobile and fixed generators that supplied power needed when commercial power was not available. During this time the automotive engine/electrical career fields became one career field known as Power Generation and consequently became the now AGE career field. The first AGE shops were co-utilized with the automotive shops. However, as AGE became more sophisticated to support aircraft systems the AGE shops were placed closer to the flight lines to be more accessible to support the aircraft. I spent 26 ½ years in the Air Force as an AGE person rising to the ranks to Chief Master Sergeant the highest enlisted rank attainable. I have served in several commands and on numerous bases in the state and worldwide. The highlight of my AGE career was when I returned from South East Asia and was assigned to Chanute Air Force Base, IL, and became the superintendent of the AGE school. The AGE school was established in 1958 when training in the automotive career field was moved from Francis E. Warren Air Force Base, Cheyenne, WY, to Chanute Air Force Base, IL. Automotive stayed as automotive and AGE became a technical training of its own. The school stood up in an old jet engine test cell building and was taught in that facility until 1974. When I returned from South East Asia in 1970 one of my first tasks was to help in the design of a new facility just for AGE training. It was the show place with special electrical and exhaust designed to operate AGE inside. The AGE school at Chanute closed in April 1993 due to Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC). The AGE technical training transitioned from Chanute to Sheppard Air Force Base, TX. As certain parts of the AGE training was concluded at Chanute personnel and equipment was transferred to Sheppard where the AGE training was continued without any lose of training time. The AGE training moved into the new schoolhouse in 1994 where it is presently taught. Again the facility is designed specifically for AGE training.

Q: What are you doing in the field currently?

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