JSTARS crew chief motivated by future, focuses on Air Force mission now

  • Published
  • By Holly Logan-Arrington
  • Robins Public Affairs

As a crew chief in the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, Senior Airman Clark Coffey isn’t satisfied until he hears the phrase ‘wheels up’ as an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft moves down the runway.   

Like others in his career field, the 28-year-old Airman’s mission is to get aircraft in the air to support warfighters on the ground.

“Depending on the morning, we as crew chiefs on night shift, are told to launch a jet, work on a specific inspection for the jet, or check on a jet to make sure that things we cover are still operating,” he said.  “My overall goal as a crew chief is to make a mission complete. I am the last contact for the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer.”

The crew chief, who has served at Robins since October 2018, said his role is critical to his unit’s future, as well as to the overall Air Force mission.

“I believe what I do for the Joint-STARS aircraft, as a crew chief, is important because I, along with others, hold a responsibility for keeping a fleet of airplanes ready at all times,” he said.  “If we didn't, we wouldn’t be keeping our other Armed Forces members safe as they run the grounds.”

To the core, Coffey is a Liberaider - a Leader who is Innovative, Balanced, Empowered, Ready, Adaptable, Inclusive, Disciplined, Empathetic and Relentless. Liberaiders are the men and women that collectively make up the 461st Air Control Wing.

The young Airman is driven by what lies ahead for him.

“What I do now - how I react to situations, how I speak to people, how I maintain my composure, how I may be observed without knowing it, and how I hold my chin up - these are all things I consider as I drive through the gate in the morning and as I’m leaving at the end of the day,” he said.

Coffey draws from his childhood experiences to motivate those around him in his squadron.

“I have given out little star stickers like the ones you would get in elementary school on a good test,” he said. “It’s very unexpected and has gotten the most chin-up expressions after getting one. They seemed to be motivated through the day.”

Coffey said it is just one of the ways he helps others persevere.   

“They need to know they will get a hold on all the challenges coming their way, and they will understand as much, if not more, if they keep going after it,” he said.

Coffey decided to pursue a military career after a long walk with a friend.

“It was one of those walks that would fatefully change my life,” he said. “An hour after getting home, I logged onto Air and started to dream while watching all the videos they provided. The next morning, I made my first call to a recruiter and followed through with what they needed from me.”

Born in Farmington, Minnesota, and reared in Georgia, the Liberaider joined the Air Force on May 15, 2018.

It’s a decision Coffey is grateful he made.

“I wanted to serve and have a lasting career where I would come home and say, ‘I can do it again tomorrow, even though today was challenging,’” he said.

Being patient, teachable, flexible, and maintaining a positive attitude are all important traits that make an Airman a great asset not only to the Team JSTARS mission, but also to the overall Air Force, Coffey said.

For this Liberaider, an attitude of gratitude is essential for success.

“I think it would be beneficial if people driving in the gate for work and driving out of the gate to go home, would take a few moments to remember they have a job and amazing military opportunities in the Air Force,” Coffey said. “Attitude is the number one attribute of success. When this reflection of knowing you are grateful for the things around you occurs, it will reflect boldly at work and in an individual’s personal life.” 


Editor’s note: Leader, Innovative, Balanced, Empowered, Ready, Adaptable, Inclusive, Disciplined, Empathetic, and Relentless – These collective traits are at the core of each Liberaider in the 461st Air Control Wing. Senior Airman Clark Coffey, a crew chief in the 461st Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, is the first of many Liberaiders that will be featured in the months ahead.