GRISSOM AIR RESERVE BASE, Ind. --
As a young child, Eva Chupp’s Amish upbringing was a world away from the high-tech business of the United States Air Force.
Though unconventional, now Senior Airmen Chupp’s journey from her community in Michigan, to the boom pod of the KC-135R Stratotanker is taking flight.
Chupp is currently in training to become a KC-135R Stratotanker an inflight refueling specialist – or boom operator -- at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind.
The boom operator is the aviator responsible for controlling the fuel delivery system, or “boom,” during in-flight refueling on the aircraft.
“I was Amish until I was 13,” said Chupp. “My parents had some religious differences with the church and we ended up being removed from there.”
After leaving the Amish community in Michigan and moving to Indiana with her family, she completed high school there and entered the workforce.
Chupp was approached by a military recruiter at a fair where she was working.
“That was the first time it occurred to me that I could join the military because I was no longer Amish,” she said. “I didn’t know how my parents felt about it but I talked to them and they were 100% supportive, which was amazing.”
With the military in the back of her mind, she got a gym membership and began to prepare herself for physical training. Meanwhile, she started a new job at a coffee shop.
She had worked there for a while when she began to feel like she reached a plateau.
“At that point I had been there for a couple of years, and although I’m not Amish anymore, I kept a lot of those values,” she said. “And I just asked God what He wanted me to do next and He brought the Air Force thing back to me. So, I started the process and went to a recruiter.”
Chupp began her Air Force journey in 2018, as an emergency management apprentic at Grissom, but quickly realized she wanted to play a larger role in the Air Force’s flying mission. Earlier this year, she applied for a boom operator position at the recommendation of a fellow Airmen.
“I feel like I’m at a really good time in my life and able to take advantage of everything the military has to offer,” she said. “I love to serve my country, as cheesy as that sounds, it’s true.”
In March of 2021, after applying for, and interviewing for a boom operator position at Grissom, she learned she got the job and transferred out of EM and over to the 74th Air Refueling Squadron.
Chief Master Sergeant Jeff Maier, 74th Air Refueling Squadron chief boom, was on the board that selected Chupp from the list of candidates.
“We look for Grissom’s best people who have had great mentors in other career fields,” said Maier. “It’s a unique job, operating 20 to 40 feet from a receiving aircraft in flight, and you need someone who is going to be meticulous.”
Chupp has already attended the first few training courses, and is scheduled for the flight fundamentals and basic boom operator courses at Lackland AFB, Texas, followed by survival, evasion, resistance and escape training at Fairchild AFB, Wash.
After spending several weeks job shadowing fully qualified boom operators, Chupp is preparing to take the next step in training, four months at Altus AFB, Okla. for KC-135 specific boom training.
“I’m most excited to actually get to do my job,” Chupp said. “I can’t wait to learn how to fly the boom and refuel airplanes.”
As far as her Amish background goes, she appreciates how that shaped her as a person.
“Growing up Amish was a huge blessing,” she said. “It set a foundation for what the rest of my life ended up being. Most of my extended family is still Amish and I love them.
“It’s been ten years since we left and we’ve found a balance,” she said. “We have been able to reconnect with them and it’s been really good. They don’t necessarily always understand everything but I didn’t know much about the military before I joined.”
The experience has been a learning one for all sides.
“It has been an opportunity to educate my Amish family about the military, especially with my first job as EM,” Chupp added. “They had no idea that a part of the Air Force is to help people and manage emergencies, and to show them that everything is not about hurting people, it’s also about protecting the country, protecting our people, and helping other people.”
She advises any young people thinking about the military to do research and consider all of the options that are out there.
“The biggest thing I would say is look at all the jobs and find out what you want,” Chupp said. “Don’t be scared and just dive in. Being in the military is great.”
The 434th ARW is the largest KC-135R Stratotanker
unit in the Air Force Reserve Command
. The Citizen Airmen from the Hoosier Wing routinely deploy around the world in support of the Air Force mission.
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