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Maintaining a legacy

Captain Christina Merritt, 34th Air Maintenance Unit, meets retired Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski during a visit to the 388th Maintenance Group at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Merritt is the first woman to lead an operational F-35A maintenance unit, and during her Air Force career, Gabreski was the first woman to lead an operational F-16 AMU, which also stood up at Hill. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Cynthia Griggs)

Captain Christina Merritt, 34th Air Maintenance Unit, meets retired Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski during a visit to the 388th Maintenance Group at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. Merritt is the first woman to lead an operational F-35A maintenance unit, and during her Air Force career, Gabreski was the first woman to lead an operational F-16 AMU, which also stood up at Hill. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Cynthia Griggs)

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah; -- This week, the 388th Maintenance Group hosted retired Lt. Gen. Terry Gabreski as part of a visit to Hill Air Force Base from the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board.

During the visit, Gabreski, who was the first woman to lead an operational F-16 aircraft maintenance unit, met Capt. Christina Merritt, who decades later became the first woman to lead an F-35 aircraft maintenance unit. By demographics, flight line maintenance is a predominantly male career field, and having the legacy of two women officers leading maintenance units as the Air Force brings new weapons systems online is an inspiring connection.  

"Since I was a second lieutenant I always thought of Lt. Gen. Gabreski as a role model." Merritt said. "She's a pioneer in the maintenance community. Meeting her today gave me a better appreciation of the groundbreaking operations I've been a part of here in the 388th Fighter Wing." 

In 1979, Hill became the first operational home for the F-16 when it entered the Air Force fleet. Then, in 2015, Hill became the first operational home of the F-35A, America's most advanced multi-role stealth aircraft.  

 "It's great to be back in the 388 FW," Gabreski said. "This Wing has always been at the forefront of the fighter world. It's a great experience for any young officer - men or women - to be able to influence how the Air Force brings on line our latest technology and employs combat air power. I couldn't be prouder that this Wing continues to be our "go to" Wing for our most advanced combat technology."