EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Silence fills the classroom as Airmen actively try not to make eye contact with one another. Many have just graduated from Basic Military Training, having learned only basic maintenance, and are still austere from the environment they were just in.
After BMT, Airmen are sent to technical school to learn the specialized aspects of their job. If an Airmen is selected to be an F-35 aircraft armament systems technician, there is a chance they will be taught by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy McKague, 359th Training Squadron F-35 aircraft armament systems instructor.
“I love my job,” said McKague. “I love training the future generations of weapons troops.”
McKague is from Tracy, California and decided to join the Air Force right out of high school.
“I joined to better myself, and I continue to serve to impact the Airmen that serve under my charge,” said McKague. “Their accomplishments are a reflection of how I am as a leader, and it keeps me going.”
McKague became an instructor in 2018 and has won several awards throughout his career to include the Lt. Gen. Leo Marquez Award, a prestigious award for maintenance excellence, Airman of the year, weapons supervisor of the year, noncommissioned officer of the quarter, and instructor of the quarter.
“The ability to further my leadership qualities and learn how to more effectively communicate with my Airmen are some of the reasons I wanted to become an instructor,” said McKague. “Since being an instructor, I have developed into a better NCO and it has given me a deeper satisfaction with my career in the Air Force.
As an instructor, McKague ensures the next generation of leaders are developing into strategically minded, agile and complex problem-solvers, who are grounded in the Air Force’s core values and can operate within a joint, all-domain environment.
“Not everything goes as planned,” said McKague. “I teach my Airmen to think outside the box and to use the tools I have taught them to solve problems in unique and creative ways.”
Technical training is the last stop for many Airmen before they become operational, and instructors are tasked to instill the core values and foundational skills required for every member in the profession of arms.
“In tech school, we are the first impression for what these Airmen see of what the Air Force is going to be like for them,” said McKague. “I incorporate how Airmen should act into my lessons by sharing heritage or personal stories at the beginning of each of my lessons.”
Competency-based learning is the Air Force’s foundation for force development and McKague concentrates on a performance-based approach by teaching these Airmen what they need to know to be successful at all levels throughout their career.
“Training is the epitome of the Air Force,” said McKague. “By sharing my experiences, I hope to encourage them to challenge themselves and find ways to better themselves in their lives.”
When McKague was selected to be an instructor at the Academic Training Center, he was the first F-35 experienced weapons instructor to teach there.
“Being an instructor here has allowed me to see more of the operational level of the Air Force rather than the strategic level that I am used to on the flight line,” said McKague.
With McKague’s background, he has been able to educate future F-35 aircraft armament systems technicians on core tasks, loading and maintaining munitions, and how to maintain resiliency through difficult times.
“The one thing I like the most about our career field is that we take care of our own,” said McKague. “I want to leave the Air Force better than it was when I came in.”