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Faces of the Defender: Crew Chiefs

Airman conducting preflight inspection.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Heidy M. Murcia-Alvares, a crew chief assigned to the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, conducts a routine pre-flight inspection on the C-130H Hercules at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., March 13, 2019. Preflight inspections ensure that all systems work properly during the upcoming flight. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Wynndermere Shaw)

Airman preparing to marshal aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Heidy M. Murcia-Alvares, a crew chief assigned to the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, prepares to marshal the C-130H Hercules scheduled to land at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., March 13, 2019. Marshalling wands are used by aircrew and ground crew personnel when directing aircraft on the ground. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Wynndermere Shaw)

Airman conducting preflight inspection.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Heidy M. Murcia-Alvares, a crew chief assigned to the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, conducts a routine preflight inspection on the C-130H Hercules at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., March 13, 2019. Murcia-Alvares has been a crew chief for over a year. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Wynndermere Shaw)

Airman marshalling aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Heidy M. Murcia-Alvares, a crew chief assigned to the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Illinois Air National Guard, marshals the C-130H Hercules aircraft after landing at the 182nd Airlift Wing in Peoria, Ill., March 13, 2019. Crew chiefs help guide and direct aircraft on the flightline. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Wynndermere Shaw)

PEORIA, Ill. --

Taking a risk and straying from a career comfort zone isn’t easy for some. The Air National Guard allows Airmen to be a part of new and unique career opportunities, and that’s just what this Airman did.

Air Force Airman 1st Class Heidy M. Murcia-Alvares, a crew chief assigned to the 182nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron here, took a leap of faith when starting her Air Force career.

Murcia-Alvares said choosing her job wasn’t easy. In the beginning, she knew she wanted to pursue a college degree in the medical field, but enlisting in the military gave her an additional adventure.

“I took a chance on this job knowing that it would help me to travel and it would help me to learn something that I’ve never really worked with before,” she said. “I enjoy it quite a bit.”

Going into maintenance was a mystery at first, said Murcia-Alvares. Having no background in anything mechanical, she was built up to the knowledge and confidence she has today.

“I wasn’t sure if I was good at it or if I would like it,” said Murica-Alvares. “But tech school and the people around me that were helping me out in this career field really helped me start from the bottom.”

Over time the job of being a crew chief is very rewarding, because when seeing the C-130 aircraft being flown after doing her job, she knows that she played a part in a bigger picture, she said.

“It feels so good knowing that I helped to get it out there and to have it do whatever it needs to do,” said Murcia-Alvares. “So, for me the uniqueness of it is the feeling that you get once you’re done for the day, and you’re putting it to bed or you’re shutting everything down, you know that you put a lot of work into it and it’s really paying off.”

Murcia-Alvares said the skills she learned in the Air Force doesn’t just stay at the shop. Crew chiefs are taught the basics of troubleshooting and finding the root of a problem in maintenance, a valuable lesson that she now uses in her everyday life.

“If there is something wrong in my car, I know the process of troubleshooting because they’ve taught me the process of troubleshooting an aircraft,” said Murica-Alvares.

Murcia-Alvares has been a crew chief for over a year and has already traveled to multiple states. Being able to learn something so new, she said it’s something she’s happy to be a part of.

Murcia-Alvares said she took a chance at this job, but after believing more in what she’s capable of and conquering the challenge, she has grown as a person.

“It actually built my confidence on a personal level as well to know that I can try something that I’ve never done before and then actually be good at it, as long as I put work into it,” said Murcia-Alvares. “My personality has grown along with my knowledge.”

With dedication and a willingness to learn, Murcia-Alvares encourages others to take a chance in learning and experiencing something new.