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Tennessee Airmen receive exclusive tour of F-22 Raptor

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Story by TSgt Teri Eicher on 07/05/2019
JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, HONOLULU, HAWAII Members of the 134th Air Refueling Wing received an unexpected treat today. While working with the 154th Operations Group here, 134th Maintenance Unit Training Manager Master Sgt. Michael O'Neal was able to coordinate an up-close and personal tour of the F-22 Raptor.

The Raptor was set up as a static display for a pre-arranged tour, and O'Neal was able to arrange another tour to benefit the 134th members that traveled here for a two-week deployment for training.

"Coming from a refueling wing, I knew the chance to see the F-22's up close would be a special opportunity for most of our Airmen," O'Neal said. Since they are in so many different career fields, many of them rarely spend time on the flight line with our own aircraft. I was happy to help coordinate this tour."

After a brief introduction from Master Sgt. Russell Mesinas, F-22 Raptor crew chief, the Volunteers were able to walk around the plane, admire its design, and pose for photographs.

"It was awesome," said Master Sgt. Janice Bridget, 134th Personnel Systems Manager. "The Raptors are just so different from our tankers, and I know it's not something a lot of people get to experience. I'm glad I had the opportunity to see it."

81 members of the 134th ARW traveled to Hawaii for this training deployment, and nearly all took the opportunity to visit the fighters. The dramatic mountains and swaying palm trees provided an exotic backdrop for the Tennessee Airmen, who returned to their duty sections after the tour.

For one Airman, however, the visit was even more special. Aerial Port Technician Master Sgt. Michael Wood was promoted from technical sergeant in front of his fellow Airmen at the F-22.

"It was a real surprise," said Wood. "I had no idea they planned that. It was amazing to get promoted on this trip, but even more so to have it in front of the Raptor. I'm very grateful."

The F-22 Raptor was developed in the 1990's and first flown in 1997, although its first combat flight wasn't until 2014. There are only 183 Raptors in existence, and they are a closely-guarded secret of the U.S. military in order to protect the airframe's stealth technology.


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