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Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

The Student News Site of Yutan High School

Chieftain Times

Home away from home

Second Lieutentant Hendricks lives out childhood dream in Italy

Being able to live out your childhood dream doesn’t happen for everyone. Yutan graduate Frankie Hendricks (class of 2018), however, is getting the chance to live out her lifelong dream of being able to travel the world and hold a leadership position while being in the military. 

“I was initially attracted to the idea of being able to travel and lead at a young age,” Hendricks said about what inspired her to join the military.

Frankie Hendricks operates a bomb lift. This Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE) is used to load ammunitions onto an aircraft. (Courtesy Photo )

As Hendricks is a second lieutenant in the Active Duty Air Force, she gets the opportunity to travel the world, which other branches don’t get to do as often. 

“In AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps), once you receive your job assignment, you are notified of a list of Air Force bases that you are eligible to be stationed at,” Hendricks said. “As an aircraft maintenance officer, I can go almost everywhere because the Air Force has jets at almost every base.” 

Hendricks is currently stationed in Aviano, Italy, until January 2026. 

“I was allowed to list my top eight Air Force bases. I put Aviano at number one and was fortunate enough to get it,” Hendricks said. “Receiving your top choice is pretty rare in the military.”

While in Italy, Hendricks is currently serving as the Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE) flight commander, where she is in charge of an important team of maintenance professionals.

“I am in charge of a team of 76 maintenance professionals who work on over 500 pieces of aircraft support equipment,” Hendricks said. “They repair things like generators, ladders, nitrogen servicing carts, air conditioning units, liquid oxygen carts and much more. Without AGE, Aviano’s F-16 Vipers and HH-60 Pavehawk helicopters don’t get off the ground.”

As Hendricks has been in Italy for several months, she has noticed many differences there compared to the Midwest. 

“Italy is very different from the Midwest. It doesn’t feel much different on the AF (Air Force) base because almost all of my colleagues are American, but once I’m off base, things start to change,” Hendricks said. “The main takeaway here is that many of these differences are superficial. They seem overwhelming at first, especially cultural things that are different from Nebraska. For example, people won’t return your warm smile when you make eye contact on the street and the restaurant you want to go to may not even open until 8:00 PM.”

The differences can be hard to adapt to, but Hendricks has also found similarities from back home. 

After helping paint a tail flash on a jet, Hendricks poses for a picture. The jet belonged to the 510th Fighter Generation Squadron. (Courtesy Photo)

“The similarities are also very prevalent, all over the world for that matter. People are doing much of the same thing everywhere you go. We have families and jobs and responsibilities,” Hendricks said. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in cultural differences or the nuanced inconveniences of living in another country when you grow up in the U.S., especially the Midwest, but when you take a look around, you realize that we’re all very similar, no matter where you find yourself in the world.”

While it is comforting to recognize these similarities, Hendricks has found it challenging not being able to see her family and keep up with things going on back in the Midwest.

“I miss my family terribly every second of the day. I went to college out of state, so I was used to being away from Nebraska, but state borders have nothing on the Atlantic Ocean,” Hendricks said. “The other biggest drawback is the time difference because it’s hard to communicate with folks back home, and it’s next to impossible to keep up with American sports in a live format.”

Despite these challenges, Hendricks enjoys being able to travel the world at a young age. 

“I get to see the world on the Air Force’s dime at 23 years old,” said Hendricks. “What an adventure!”

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About the Contributor
Mckenna Jones
Mckenna Jones, Junior writer
Mckenna Jones is a junior and in her third year of journalism. She enjoys writing entertainment reviews, sports stories and taking photos. Outside journalism, Mckenna is involved in volleyball, track, NHS and FCA.
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