WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Having a Navy veteran father and two brothers in the military, Kevin Andrews joined the Marine Corps in 1977. Little did he know as a teenage recruit, his time in the maritime branch would forever set his sights on the skies.
“You can’t believe being a teenager in a multimillion-dollar jet that goes faster than the speed of sound, and you’re instrumental in making sure that our country was safe,” Andrews said.
Andrews worked on a variety of aircraft from dual main rotor helicopters to F-4 Phantom II jets.
“The pilot’s life was in your hands. Everybody that touched that airplane before they got in it, you were responsible to make sure it was safe for them to fly,” Andrews said.
Andrews would serve for 11 years from a support equipment mechanic to a jet engine mechanic.
“I was licensed to operate the aircraft static, meaning I could do everything that any other pilot other than flying it could do,” Andrews said.
Andrews spent much of his career in the Pacific, flying from Japan to Guam to the Philippines as part of an elite squad of mechanics.
“We could do anything from the beginning to the end of that airplane process,” Andrews said. “You were going to be what we called the ‘Advance Party.’ You’re gonna get it all set up before the other 300 or 400 [members of the squadron] would come.”
Andrews says it was crucial for him and his team to keep jet planes at the ready at all times.
“We practice what you would consider War Games. We would do things just to make sure that the pilots and the workers and people that were part of it all we did was practice just in case something went wrong,” Andrews said.
Andrews would eventually become an E-6 Staff Sergeant supervising anywhere from 15 to 100 mechanics.
“Working on a jet engine, just because I had other troops that that’s what their job was, it was always called upon us to always contribute, so you get right in there, and get your hands dirty, you make sure because you are responsible,” Andrews said.
Andrews would retire from the Marine Corps in 1988; his 11-year-career spanned a time technology seemed to evolve even faster than the speed of sound.
“To know that you were a part of that airplane, getting into the air and running like it is supposed to run, and safely. It was real exciting to know that you could do something like that on that kind of machine,” Andrews said.
Even after his time in the Marine Corps, Andrews would get to serve in a different way. Andrews would go on to help manufacture military aircraft at Boeing. He says his favorite project involved producing 16 of the largest aircraft in the world: the C-17.
If you would like to nominate a veteran for our Veteran Salute, email KSN reporter Hannah Adamson at email@example.com.