PEORIA, Ill. --
It was 1947 when Chief Master Sgt. Homer Wells enlisted with the 169th Fighter Squadron to work on F-51 Mustangs
— the same year Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier and the Department of Defense was established.
When Wells retired 37 years later, the chief of maintenance had worked on or supervised 11 different aircraft in a unit that underwent four re-designations, received its first Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
and would soon earn a rating of “excellent” during its first Operational Readiness Inspection.
It’s a legacy
that reaches to nearly the very beginning of the Peoria Air National Guard and resonated with the current generation of maintainers.
The 182nd Maintenance Group held a special ceremony to honor Wells’ career before the 182nd Airlift Wing’s annual retiree social Aug. 24. Lt. Col. Steven Rice, the group’s deputy commander, presided the ceremony and spoke about the importance of Wells’ contributions to the unit.
“I just wanted to the take time to bring you out and tell you how much we appreciate not just you, but everybody of your generation,” Rice said.
He also read stories as told by one of Wells’ two children who had the opportunity to serve alongside their father.
They recalled that Wells was born left-handed, but his teachers forced him to learn to write right-handed. The result was an ambidextrous maintainer who could work on aircraft faster than his peers by just switching arms when one grew tired.
In another tale, Wells was instructed to fly in the backseat of a T-6 Texan
in order to troubleshoot a mysterious vibration that occurred in the air but not on the ground.
Wells, early in his military career, had not flown often and thought he might get airsick. He instructed the pilot in-flight to lower the landing gear, and the vibration stopped. With that, he told the pilot he was ready to land.
The young Airman was then able to determine that the vibration came from someone having left a hammer in the landing gear wheel well.
“We’d be remiss if we didn’t take the time on a night such as this — when we have everybody coming out, telling their stories, enjoying one another — that we take that time to bring you out and tell you how much we appreciate what you gave to us,” Rice said. “We were all able to raise families, have a good job out here, enjoy benefits, travel, pay and all of those things because of those of you that came before us. And we appreciate that.”
Rice concluded the ceremony by presenting Wells with an aircraft chock signed by the unit members and listing all the aircraft Wells worked on during his career.
“So today, Chief,” he told the veteran, “we honor you and your service to the Peoria Air Guard, to the state of Illinois and to our nation. Thank you very much.”