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Crew chief reunites with his aircraft 40 years later

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado
  • 459th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — “My tanker was one of the first tankers to fly a refueling mission in Vietnam. I flew all over Southeast Asia. Flying was my favorite part of the job.” 

Master Sgt. William J. Fuselier, retired, spoke these words during a visit to the 459th Air Refueling Wing Fuselier, where he once again set foot on the very same aircraft he was a crew chief on during his time in service; an aircraft that still holds thousands of pounds of fuel and countless memories. Fuselier joined the military as an active duty Air Force service member in 1954, just prior to the start of the Vietnam War. The first aircraft he worked on was a B-47 Stratojet, but a few years later, he transition to the KC-135.

While visiting the 459th, Fuselier told many stories of his service as a crew chief. He crewed his aircraft for seven years, and in that time he witnessed many adventures. He recalls a time his team prayed they would safely make it off the runway at a base in Incirlick, Turkey.

“We were coming to the end of the runway, and we were losing clearance quickly; the runway was shortened due to repairs so all we could do was hope she took off in time,” he recalls. “Well she took off right in time, and now I’m here to tell the story.”

Fuselier went to crew chief training at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Indiana, which was renamed Grissom AFB in 1968. After his training, Fuselier proved to be an outstanding Airman and wingman, and his accomplishments began to skyrocket. Over his career, he received countless letters of recognition and appreciation, and ultimately Fuselier was awarded the Bronze Star.

Making Fuselier’s reunion here even more special, he met the current dedicated crew chief of tail 3543, Tech Sgt. Kevin Crespo.

“When you have the chance to meet an original DCC to any aircraft, especially the one you are assigned to as the current DCC is an amazing feeling,” Crespo said.

This reunion happened because Fuselier had a feeling his plane was still out there. He and his family did some searching and found his old jet online here. When Fuselier contacted the 459th to request a visit, wing leadership here did everything it could to bring the retired Airman back to his jet.

“I am extremely excited and grateful we got Bill out here to see his tanker,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jose Velez, 459th ARW command chief. “He has a great deal of knowledge and we all learned from him in the short amount of time he was here. I’m happy that he and his family got this opportunity.”

“The cognizance, history and recollections he brings to the table is invaluable to me,” said Crespo. “We (crew chiefs) usually wonder, ‘if the aircraft could speak what would it say?’ Today, we were able to hear some of those stories first hand from him.  Moments like today are unique opportunities to come across. It was an honor and a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet retired Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier.”

Fuselier hopes he hasn’t seen the last of the KC-135. He hopes he will get an opportunity down the road to fly on tail 3543, again.

“It’s on my bucket list, I’ve seen my aircraft and hopefully in the future I will be able to get on a flight, just like old times” he said. “This visit has brought back so many great memories; I am grateful to the crew of tail 3543 and to the members of the 459th who made this possible for me and my family.”