A 22-year-old maintenance millwright was eager to join the Massachusetts Air National Guard, but he didn’t want to just build upon his mechanical skills. He wanted to make a difference and serve in a unique career field that wasn’t found in the civilian world.
While meeting with a recruiter to choose a career field, Donny Masciadrelli looked out onto the flightline at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts. His bright-blue eyes widened as the recruiter pointed out the service members working underneath an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft.
“Those are the weapons guys,” the recruiter said as he pointed to the airmen arming the aircraft. “And the ones with the trailers are the munitions workers.”
“What’s the difference?” Donny asked.
The recruiter explained that the munitions shop assembles the ammunition and delivers them to the aircraft, whereas the weapons personnel inspect and reinspect the weapons and load them onto the airplane.
His choice was simple.
“Weapons,” Donny replied. “I want to work on airplanes!”
Today, 35 years later and deployed to the Netherlands, Donny looks out on the flightline at Leeuwarden Air Base, sees his son working as a crew chief on an F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft, and a big smile comes to his face.
After a full career working on A-10 and F-15 aircraft, Air Force Master Sgt. Donny Masciadrelli, now an avionics technician at the 104th Fighter Wing, finds joy in deploying for his final time alongside his son, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Danny Masciadrelli.
Donny will retire from the Massachusetts Air National Guard in 2018 when he turns 60. Looking back on his career, he said, this deployment has been a dream come true. He’s been able to see his son in action and feels a sense of accomplishment from the hard work that they have done along with other members from the 104th Fighter Wing, based in Westfield, Massachusetts.
“We’re always here for the airplanes and the pilots,” Donny said. “That’s our job — to make things go.”
The 104th came to the Netherlands as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, showing NATO allies the U.S. commitment to security in Europe, building relationships, and increasing interoperability among allied nations.
“We’re really here to show them that they know they can count on us to have their backs,” Donny said. “That’s what it’s all about. We’re not just working with them and training together, but we’re showing them some of our capabilities. It means the world to me to be a part of this, and to share the experience with my son.”
In 2001, Danny was eligible for the delayed entry program and decided to enlist during his senior year of high school. In the 15 years that father and son have both been part of the 104th Fighter Wing, this is their first time deploying together for an F-15 mission. Both Masciadrellis worked on the A-10, until Barnes Air National Guard Base converted to the F-15C/D Eagle in 2007.
Because they work in different career fields, Donny doesn’t typically get to see his son doing his job as a crew chief.
“This is the closest we’ve ever worked together,” he said. “I’ve been able to come out and work in the tool room and actually experience watching him this close.”
A father’s pride
Donny said he has always been proud of his son, but that pride has increased as they’ve spent time together in the Netherlands. “Every day, I watch him and it just makes me proud,” he said. “It brings tears to my eyes.”
Like any protective father, Donny used to worry a little when his son would deploy, but through the years, and during this deployment especially, he said, he’s seen Danny mature and be a leader.
“I don’t worry any more,” he added. “He’s been stepping up to the plate. Danny’s out there showing guys what to do, training them. He’s leading; he’s not watching.”
Both Masciadrellis have the same positive and fun attitude and laugh all the time. Donny has seen his son apply these attributes while working during their joint deployment. “He’s pulling the guys with him, like I used to do,” Donny said.
Danny’s grandfather and great-grandfather worked as maintainers during their civilian careers, which motivated Donny to become a maintainer, too.
“He’s the hardest-working guy I know,” Danny said about his father. “He’s really smart, and he’s always taught me a lot. He’d also always have fun. That ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality — he’s always had that.”
Over the years, Danny watched his father work hard, whether it was on cars, houses or in the military. Donny’s co-workers would often spend time at the Masciadrelli home, and Danny became friends with their kids.
Through their mutual friendships, and the example of hard work set forth by generations of Masciadrelli maintenance men, Danny said, he was inspired to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the Massachusetts Air National Guard.
In 2012, both Donny and Danny deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom, but were assigned to different bases. Donny went with the avionics shop to Al Udeid, Qatar, and Danny was sent elsewhere in Southwest Asia.
About a week before Father’s Day that year, Danny Skyped with his wife, who was pregnant at the time with their first child. Tears fell down his face as his wife opened the envelope from the doctor, he said, and they learned they were having a boy.
With heightened emotions while being away from home, Danny decided to write his dad a note, thanking him for all he had done throughout the years, and mailed it to Al Udeid. On Father’s Day, Danny told his dad over the phone that he would be having a son.
“He’s given me a lot to strive for in being a father,” Danny said. “My dad is my biggest role model. Hopefully, my boys will look at me the same way that I look at him someday.”
Danny has been married for five years and now has two boys. It is tough having two little ones at home, which makes deploying strenuous on his wife, he said.
“My wife and stepmom have been very supportive of both of us being away from home,” Danny said. “They understand — especially when they see us going away together and know that at least we get to spend some time as father and son.”