Veteran Salute: Fuel crew kept Air Force missions in the air

Veteran Salute

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — A Goddard man says he joined the Air Force as a way to honor his father. Veteran Ed Krivanek said his father served in the Army Air Corps, which became the Air Force, and was a gunner and gunnery instructor during WWII.

(Courtesy Ed Krivanek)

Krivanek said all those who can serve should do so.

“To me, it’s a patriotic duty,” he said.

Krivanek remembers what it was like for a young Air Force recruit at basic training.

“A lot of getting chewed at by the drill sergeant,” he said.

When Krivanek was growing up in Indiana, he played clarinet in fourth grade. He also learned the trumpet by borrowing his brother’s from time to time. It helped him land an interesting position in the military.

“They asked, ‘Is anybody here musically talented that would consider being in the Drum and Bugle Corps?'” he said. “Of course, I jumped on it.”

Krivanek still has the certificate that shows just how talented he was, and he said the unique assignment got him out of other less desirable duties.

“Rather than having to pull kitchen duty and certain clean-up duties around the air base, we actually got to take instruments and march in parades,” he said.

He said they also performed for the brass, and what they played depended on how many stars the brass had.

Krivanek speaks highly of one of the most beautiful places he has been, Charleston. He was stationed there and spent the bulk of his time in service on the flight line.

“It was very fun to watch those things take off,” Krivanek said of the fighter jets.

The jets would disappear into the clouds in seconds, thanks in part to Krivanek and the fuel crew.

“The biggest part of the job was fueling the aircraft,” the self-described fuel jockey said. “We were also responsible for storing those fuels, testing the fuels.”

The fuel was highly volatile.

“You don’t want impediments and stuff in the fuel systems on an aircraft because, just the nature of what they do,” Krivanek said.

On a promotion test, he achieved the highest score they had seen at that time, and even more impressive – all the material had to be memorized.

“When you are out there working on the line or working with your hands in the fuel, you don’t get to play with the fuel and have a manual beside you at the same time. You have to know your stuff,” Krivanek said.

You had to know a lot about many aircraft. One of his favorite to fuel was the A-10 Warthog, also known as the Thunderbolt.

“Such an ugly aircraft, but such a definitive purpose that it was just really neat being able to see it,” Krivanek said.

He said it was also something to see when President Ronald Reagan’s plane landed at his base.

(Courtesy Ed Krivanek)

“I was selected to fuel the aircraft, and so I thought that was a pretty big honor,” Krivanek said.

They ended up not needing fuel, but that honor is something he will never forget. Another unforgettable moment was when unidentified aircraft flew into their airspace.

“You would not believe how fast those pilots are out of the lounge, in the aircraft, and going down the taxiway,” Krivanek said.

He said they always had a good rapport with the crew chiefs.

“The crew chiefs are very thankful if they will, that they had a team running fuel to them,” Krivanek said.

He said the guys who made those flights possible were like a brotherhood, and they had a lot of fun together.

“It’s very tight-knit,” he said. “They expect you to have their back, and, number two, you expect them to have your back.”

Flying is something Krivanek dreamed of doing when he was a child, but he still looks back fondly on the part he played to keep the Air Force mission in the air.

“We have a beautiful country, and it’s worth protecting, and it’s worth saving,” he said.

He said he would sign up all over again if he was just a little younger.

“I would, only this time I would fly the F-16,” Krivanek said.

Krivanek was so talented in his military career that one time he was offered an incentive ride. But he never left the ground because there wasn’t enough crew for him to take flight.

He said when you deal with aircraft, you learn a lot about hydraulics and pneumatics. He said those skills came in handy in his long-time career in the medical field.

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