HomeNewsArticle Display

Vietnam era crew chief reunites with his aircraft 40 years later

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, looks at the cockpit of his former aircraft during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, gazes in the distance during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, looks at the cockpit of his former aircraft during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, looks at the cockpit of his former aircraft during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

From left to right, Col. Douglas Gullion, 459th Air Refueling Wing commander, Tech Sgt. Kevin Crespo, 459th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, and Chief Master Sgt. Jose Velez, 459th ARW command chief, pose for a photo during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

From left to right, Col. Douglas Gullion, 459th Air Refueling Wing commander, Tech Sgt. Kevin Crespo, 459th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron dedicated crew chief, Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, and Chief Master Sgt. Jose Velez, 459th ARW command chief, pose for a photo during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, looks at the cockpit of his former aircraft during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, (far left) poses for a photo with his family in front of a KC-135 Stratotanker, tail number 3543, taken over 40 years ago. (Courtesy Photo from Fuselier family)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, looks at the cockpit of his former aircraft during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, speaks to Tech Sgt. Chris McAlister, 756th Air Refueling Squadron boom operator, during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, looks at the cockpit of his former aircraft during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, looks at his name on a KC-135 Stratotanker, tail 3543, during a visit to the 459 Air Refueling Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Md. April 25, 2019. Fusilier is a Vietnam War veteran and former crew chief. He returned to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on over 40 years ago. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, looks at the cockpit of his former aircraft during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, sits for a photo during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, looks at the cockpit of his former aircraft during a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier, retired, poses for a photo with a picture that was taken of him and his family almost 40 years ago, before going on a tour of a KC-135 Stratotanker, April 25, 2019 at Joint Base Andrews, Md. Fuselier is a Vietnam War veteran, Bronze Star recipient and former crew chief. He came to the 459th to visit the same aircraft he worked on when he was on active duty over 40 years ago. (U.S Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cierra Presentado)

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. --

William J. Fuselier is a retired Master Sergeant, a Vietnam War Veteran, a Bronze Star recipient, and a former crew chief for the KC-135 Stratotanker, tail number 3543 more than 40 years ago. He recently came to the 459th Air Refueling wing to visit his old aircraft that still holds thousands of pounds of fuel and countless memories.

“My tanker was one of the first tankers to fly a refueling mission in Vietnam,” Fuselier said. “I flew all over Southeast Asia. Flying was my favorite part of the job.”

Fuselier joined the military as an active duty Air Force service member in 1954, just prior to the start of the Vietnam War. The first aircraft he worked on was a B-47 Stratojet, but a few years later, he took on the KC-135.

While visiting the 459th, Fuselier told many stories of his service as a crew chief. He crewed his aircraft for seven years, and in that time he witnessed many adventures. He recalls a time his team prayed they would safely make it off the runway at a base in Incirlick, Turkey.

“We were coming to the end of the runway, and we were losing clearance quickly; the runway was shortened due to repairs so all we could do was hope she took off in time,” he recalls. “Well she took off right in time, and now I’m here to tell the story.”

Fuselier went to crew chief training at Bunker Hill Air Force Base, Indiana, which was renamed Grissom AFB in 1968. After his training, Fuselier proved to be an outstanding Airman and wingman, and his accomplishments began to skyrocket. Over his career, he received countless letters of recognition and appreciation, and ultimately Fuselier was awarded the Bronze Star.

Making Fuselier’s reunion here even more special, he met the current dedicated crew chief of tail 3543, Tech Sgt. Kevin Crespo.

“When you have the chance to meet an original DCC to any aircraft, especially the one you are assigned to as the current DCC is an amazing feeling,” Crespo said.

This reunion happened because Fuselier had a feeling his plane was still out there. He and his family did some searching and found his old jet online here. When Fuselier contacted the 459th to request a visit, wing leadership here did everything it could to bring the retired Airman back to his jet.

“I am extremely excited and grateful we got Bill out here to see his tanker,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jose Velez, 459th ARW command chief. “He has a great deal of knowledge and we all learned from him in the short amount of time he was here. I’m happy that he and his family got this opportunity.”

“The cognizance, history and recollections he brings to the table is invaluable to me,” said Crespo. “We (crew chiefs) usually wonder, ‘if the aircraft could speak what would it say?’ Today, we were able to hear some of those stories first hand from him.  Moments like today are unique opportunities to come across. It was an honor and a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet retired Master Sgt. Bill Fuselier.”

Fuselier hopes he hasn’t seen the last of the KC-135. He hopes he will get an opportunity down the road to fly on tail 3543, again.

“It’s on my bucket list, I’ve seen my aircraft and hopefully in the future I will be able to get on a flight, just like old times” he said. “This visit has brought back so many great memories; I am grateful to the crew of tail 3543 and to the members of the 459th who made this possible for me and my family.”