Maintainer makes murals for morale

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jason Wiese
  • 90th Missile Wing Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is the first article in a series of articles about artwork in the Mighty Ninety.

The 90th Maintenance Group ensures the Minuteman III Weapon System under the care of the 90th Missile Wing is at peak performance capability. ICBM maintenance is a black-and-white world of torque wrenches and technical orders.

One maintainer wanted to bring a splash of color to this world.

During his civilian career here, Tech. Sgt. (Ret.) David Austin, 90th Maintenance Operations Squadron Missile Maintenance Material Control Supply technician supervisor, has painted numerous murals on 90th Maintenance Group facilities' walls.

Throughout the High Bay and in other MXG buildings, Austin painted murals of organizational emblems.

Austin said he uses his artistic talents to liven up potentially drab areas in Airmen's work centers.

"They're hardworking Airmen and they do it all the time," he said. "They can work 14-hour days. They drive hours a day to get out to a site. Sometimes, the best thing they can do -- you can see it in their face -- is just chill."

Each piece takes him an average of six hours to complete, he said.

"I do it on my down time," he said.

The artworks about which Austin speaks most fondly are frogs he painted in his material control office in the 90th MXG High Bay.

"I [painted] them because, in some cultures, frogs are considered good luck," he said, and with a laugh he continued, "Everybody can use a little luck."

They're not black and white, and they have nothing to do with the military. It's a way to get away, he said.

"Everybody says, 'Put a tank up. Put a missile up.'"

To this, his response is an emphatic, "No."

He brings a wealth of experience with him. He has painted murals and wall art at places he was stationed on active-duty including Royal Air Force Station Alconbury, RAF Bentwaters, RAF Molesworth  and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Austin said he has seen junior enlisted Airmen change duty stations and he meets them again as master sergeants later in their careers.

"They say, 'I remember this frog! Here's a new one!'" he said.

His next artistic endeavor will be a Thor frog, he said.

"I think it makes this place fun," said Airman 1st Class Tiphani Gatlin, 90th Missile Maintenance Squadron Facilities Maintenance Section scheduler.

Gatlin often comes to Austin's office for work-related tasks and to ask questions "because he's the only guy who can answer all my questions at once," she said. "He's got the down-low on where to go."

"Whenever I put a sticky note on his desk, I put a little frog on it," she said.

When Lt. Col. Thomas Vance, 90th Maintenance Group deputy commander, was a major and the 90th MOS commander, he worked with 90th MXG leadership to get Austin permission to paint murals in MXG facilities. It was a collaborative effort to improve morale, he said.

"Artwork is a great visual example of an organization's espirit de corps -- a constant visual reminder of an organization and what it stands for," Vance said. "It can have a unifying impact on the organization.

"It illustrated the pride in our organization. [Austin] is quite talented. He is also quite involved with the group. He is very supportive of maintenance and maintainers."

When the maintenance group wanted paintings to adorn its facilities' walls, they went to Austin.

He was the obvious choice to assist, Vance Said.

"I think you can tie a person's unique talents to our core values of excellence in all we do and service before self."

When a person has artistic talent, exhibiting excellence in that ability to support their organization shows service before self.

"He's a very well-respected and valued member of the maintenance team here," Vance said.