Two Generations of Maintenance Officers

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cristina J. Allen
  • 177th Fighter Wing
Like father, like son.

Almost 40 years after U.S. Air Force Capt. Thomas J. Cooper commissioned, his son, Maj. Brian T. Cooper, followed in his footsteps.

Brian, commander of the Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard, commissioned in the Air Force in 2003 and his father, Thomas, an aircraft maintenance officer, commissioned in the Air Force in 1965.

Their visit was made possible by Brian’s temporary duty assignment at the Air Dominance Center in Savannah, Georgia, close to where his parents retired to in 2004, in Bluffton, South Carolina.

“We’re just two Jersey guys, and this just happens to be close to where they retired to,” said Brian. “I haven’t lived with my parents in over 20 years and I happen to be deployed here.”

As the two conversed about their military careers, some similar views continued to emerge.

“Everything is different, but nothing has changed,” said Thomas, an ROTC graduate out of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Brian agreed.

“It is interesting on how different it is, yet how similar,” said Brian, distinguished Air Force ROTC graduate of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. “The very unique thing for us, is the maintenance bible.”

Brian described the 500-plus page “maintenance bible,” the main Air Force Instruction on maintenance, as an all-encompassing manuscript on everything one needs to know about maintenance.

Thomas commented that they, too, had a maintenance bible that they followed, but at that time it was only 63 pages long.

“The protocols were different, but when you got down to it and walked out on the ramp, it’s identical,” said Thomas, who was stationed at the 7101 Airbase Wing in Wiesbaden, Germany. “You have crew chiefs trying to get things done, people trying to order parts and just overall, trying to get the job done.”

There was one thing they both agreed on completely, maintenance camaraderie is one of a kind.

“It’s the camaraderie you won’t get anywhere else,” said Brian. “Maintainers are the silent sentinels.”

Thomas agreed.

“The military is a club, especially maintenance,” said Thomas, who received his master’s degree in program management from the University of Southern California. “The camaraderie will never change.”

Brian described himself and his father as being very similar.

“It is very ironic that we’re both kind of gear heads,” said Brian. “We butted heads a lot, and the Air Force definitely brought us together.”
When asked if his father was his inspiration for commissioning, Brian simply laughed.

“It’s the running joke in the family,” said Brian. “My dad’s first advice when I came in was, one, don’t be a maintenance officer and, two, don’t do fighter jets. So here I am, as a maintenance officer on fighters.”
The room filled with laughter.

“All of the stories he told were really what got me interested, the stories are just unbelievable,” said Brian. “That’s ultimately what brought me to the military.”

Father and son sat side-by-side, as two generations of U.S. Air Force maintenance officers, were reunited on the flight line.