By Staff Sgt. Hanna Smith,Barnes Air National Guard Base, Mass. —
After about six-months of designing and planning, the 104th Fighter Wing’s flagship F-15C Eagle, tail number 125, received new nose art graphics in late December.
The roughly six-foot by four-foot nose art graphic, featured on both sides of the F-15, appears to display the American flag, but upon closer look, displays the hundreds of names of members in the 104th Fighter Wing.
Master Sgt. Leo Burbee, 104th Maintenance Group, aircraft structural maintenance supervisor, and Westfield native, was part of the team behind the jet’s new nose art decals.
“The original inspiration behind the decals was the importance and tradition of having Airmen’s names featured on a jet,” said Burbee. “Typically, the only names on a jet are those of the pilot and dedicated crew chief. So by putting all the members’ names from the wing within the decals on the flagship jet it really demonstrates how we are all here on the same team, for the same reason,” he said.
The team also included a special component in the design process. They paid tribute to the wing’s history by including the names of the wing’s fallen.
“In addition to all of the names of all the current 104th Fighter Wing members, we also added all of the names that are a part of the base’s F-100 memorial,” said Burbee. “The memorial commemorates all of those who lost their lives while serving the 104th Fighter Wing. We incorporated all of those names into the graphic in a special golden color so they would always be represented as part of the unit,” he said.
After the concept was nailed down, Burbee worked closely with Lt. Col. Peter Carr, 104MXG Commander, Tech. Sgt. Derek Jendrysik, 104MXG aircraft structural maintenance technician, and Tech. Sgt. Ryann Parker, 104MXG, maintenance command support staff member, to create the actual design for the decals.
“After I got the American Flag design idea from Master Sgt. Burbee, I worked with Tech. Sgt. Parker from our command support staff section to compile a list of the names of everyone at the 104th Fighter Wing,” said Jendrysik. “The most difficult part of the whole design process was trying to plan around the aircraft’s systems including antennas and lights and then figuring out the largest size font we could use in the remaining space.”
Once the final designs for the decals were produced, Burbee and Jendrysik worked alongside Tech. Sgt. Michael Poudrier, 104MXG dedicated crew chief for tail number 125, and Airman 1st Class Thomas Desrochers, 104MXG aircraft structural maintenance technician, for several hours to apply the decals to the jet.
Col. Tom ‘Sling’ Bladen, 104FW commander, was impressed with how the Airmen created and executed the decal project.
“I am proud of and astounded by all of the Airmen involved in this project,” said Bladen. “It was a huge team effort and the group’s ability to take an idea and then turn it into this beautiful, symbolic representation of our wing on the flagship jet, while dealing with all of the complexities of working around the aircraft’s systems, is really eye-watering.”
The decals will impact the wing for years to come. For Burbee, being able to have a hand in this experience was rewarding.
“It’s really neat to be able to have a hand in designing and creating something like these decals that are going to have an impact on the members of the 104th FW for years to come,” said Burbee. “What I find even more impactful is the idea that someone who doesn’t get the opportunity to go out on the flightline gets to take their family out during an air show and be able to show them their name on the jet. The idea of that for me is the real reward,” he said