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Load 'em up: F-35A from A to B? Ask Fanter

Tech. Sgt. Allen Fanter, the non-commissioned officer in charge of cargo operations for the 388th Maintenance Group, stands next to a cargo container in a hangar at Aviano Air Base, Italy during Astral Knight 2019. Fanter is the man tasked with making sure everything needed for a deployment gets to where it needs to be. This is one of more than a dozen movements Fanter has overseen since the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing's received their first F-35As in 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Micah Garbarino)

Tech. Sgt. Allen Fanter, the non-commissioned officer in charge of cargo operations for the 388th Maintenance Group, stands next to a cargo container in a hangar at Aviano Air Base, Italy, during Astral Knight 2019. Fanter is the man tasked with making sure everything needed for a deployment gets to where it needs to be. This is one of more than a dozen movements Fanter has overseen since the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing's received their first F-35As in 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Micah Garbarino)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy --

How do you pack an F-35A into a C-17? Or move nearly 300 Airmen, and all the equipment, to support 12 aircraft around Europe for two months? Or make sure you have enough of everything that you’ll need, and almost nothing that you don’t?

For nearly 5 years at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, the answer has been, “Ask Fanter.”

Tech. Sgt. Allen Fanter, the 388th Maintenance Group non-commissioned officer in charge of cargo operations, has been the guru of pallets, tie-downs, weights and measures and safety requirements since the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings received their first pair of F-35A Lightning II’s in September 2015.

Hero, rock star, vital, - these are all words different people used to describe him. His is one of many jobs that are critical, and not many know about.

“For every movement, he’s responsible for orchestrating a complex series of requirements with multiple different military and civilian agencies,” said Chief Master Sgt. Trey Munn, 388th Maintenance Group chief executive manager. “It’s one of the behind the scenes jobs that nobody ever sees, but without his magic we wouldn’t be able to move hundreds of people, or hundreds of thousands of pounds of equipment around the world.”

From England and Italy, to Japan and Korea, and smaller stops in between, Fanter, who not ironically worked for United Parcel Service for five years before joining the Air Force, and the other members of the 388th Maintenance Group’s logistics staff, have been ensuring that equipment and people get where they need to be to carry out the mission.

“There are so many moving pieces with each deployment,” Fanter said. “But I like being able to support the mission. I know if I mess up then we’re not going to have what we need to get the job done.”

Prior to the first trip the wing ever made with the jets, the planners were still trying figuring out exactly what was essential and what wasn’t. Fanter helped develop the requirements, how everything would need to be broken down, pallets built, and transported safely – from aerospace ground equipment to entire container-housed secure facilities.

For each movement (he's overseen more than a dozen, including deployments) the amount and type of equipment varies on the number of F-35s going and the support available at the deployed location, which was almost non-existent a few years ago, said Fanter. Now that the program is more mature, with jets at more locations, the list of required equipment can be tailored.

“It’s been really rewarding to be a part of standing up the first F-35A unit,” Fanter said. “I know it’s something I’ll look back on and be proud of.”

Fanter doesn’t just work on deployments. At Hill, he recently helped the Ogden Air Logistics Complex’s 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group transport an F-35A from Eglin AFB, Florida, to Utah in a C-17 for the first time ever. It took about a year to iron out all the details. The aircraft will be used in the depot to help train new technicians.

Originally from Rapid City, South Dakota, he joined the Air Force 14 years ago and has enjoyed a job that’s enabled him to travel, meet new people, and lay the groundwork for moving America’s most advanced fifth-generation fighter around the world, he said. On his to-do list for today? How to get Airmen’s personal baggage from one location to another without hiccups. You can trust him. It’ll get there.