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Air Force egress “godfather” visits Seymour Johnson egress technicians

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Aaron J. Jenne
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The 4th Component Maintenance Squadron egress shop recently welcomed a historical visitor to their workplace.

Retired Chief Master Sgt. George H. Fuller Sr. visited the shop almost like a proud parent, because, in many respects, he's the father of the Air Force egress career field.

The visit was especially poignant as Fuller passed away 13 days later. At 80, Fuller leaves behind one child, two grandchildren, and an indelible mark on the Air Force.

In 1953, then Airman 3rd Class Fuller found himself spearheading the creation of the Air Force's egress world through matters of circumstance and timing.

Initially trained as an aircraft maintainer, Fuller was selected to attend the first egress course. After completion of the course, Fuller was asked by his leadership at Alexandria Air Force Base, Louisiana, to train aircraft maintainers on how to work safely around egress equipment.

"They said, 'You've been through an ejection seat school?'" Fuller said. "'You're going to start taking care of the ejection seats.' So I said, 'Yeah, okay, I'd be glad to.' I went to every one of the crew chiefs and showed them how to do it right, and from then it just blossomed."

He said through hours of one-on-one instruction he began to see a need for an actual physical location for egress training and repairs. Thus the Air Force's first egress shop was created. That was the beginning of what would be a career dedicated to changing a key aspect of safety.

He had unofficially cut the ribbon on the Air Force's first egress shop, but little did Fuller know, there would be many to follow.

With the first egress shop up and running, Fuller received orders for Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Armed with the knowledge of the drastic need for training and the experience of setting up a shop, he stepped forward and established a second egress shop.

With his acquired skills, Fuller found he had a knack for it. So he continued on that course of changing stations and setting up an egress shop wherever he was located.

His third assignment was to Greenville Air Force Base, Mississippi. There, he encountered his first real snag.

Fuller said he was told he didn't have enough rank to be setting up shops. Accompanied by Lt. Gen. Claire Chennault, a famous pilot during WWII, Fuller went to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.

"(Chennault) got to know me and took me up to Langley," Fuller said. "He said, 'You've got to do something about (Fuller). Put him in a job that requires him to do this.' That's what they did. They gave me a new AFSC to continue setting up schools."

Once Fuller had his newly minted AFSC, he continued with his mandate, ultimately setting up more than 15 egress shops at bases around the world, including Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, the 333rd Fighter Squadron's shop at Takhli Air Base, Thailand, and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Fuller boasts a dynamic Air Force career aside from his egress accomplishments. Both a Korean and Vietnam War veteran, he served more than 30 years.

A courier during the Korean War, Fuller travelled to U.S. embassies around the world delivering cryptologic devices; devices used to ensure secure classified information transfer. He said that over a span of two years, he visited every country that had a U.S. embassy.

Fuller also served as a senior enlisted advisor for multiple commands. But with all his experience and various jobs, Fuller said egress was his true love.

"It's unbelievable how much shops have changed from when they started to now," he said. "It makes me really proud. Now I've seen it all."

According to the Airmen of the 4th CMS egress shop, Fuller's presence had a true impact and really put their career in perspective.

"It was a real honor to meet the godfather of egress," said Airman 1st Class Seth Burton, a 4th CMS egress technician. "I chose this career because an ejection seat saved my uncle's life. I attribute his life and probably countless others to the contributions of this man."

By many, Fuller is remembered as a true unsung Air Force hero. His legacy will live on throughout the years.

"From Fuller's story, we can obviously see he was an aviation pioneer," said Dr. Roy Heidicker, the 4th Fighter Wing historian. "He was working during a time of major technological advancements. The period after WWII saw great leaps in aircraft capabilities and safety and Fuller shares in that important time period."