Fast 5: Transitioning From the Military to a Civilian MRO Job

Mariah Passman. Photo credit: Lindsay Bjerregaard

Mariah Passman, a Level 3 technician at AAR in Rockford, Illinois, talks about how she transitioned from being in the military to working in a civilian MRO job.

How did you transition from being in the U.S. Navy to civilian life and working in the aviation aftermarket?

I joined the military in 2017 and came in knowing that I wanted to be in aviation, so I started as an undesignated airman. From there, I got to jump around in different jobs and when I got out I knew I needed additional knowledge so I joined the Skillbridge program, which lasted nine weeks. Several military personnel who I knew had gone through that and had said they gained knowledge and jobs. I went through Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s program at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, an Army base. It was a good program and my teacher was amazing. I really enjoyed the Skillbridge program. Transitioning from Skillbridge to civilian life was seamless. I was in contact with Terri Wiegert (a human resources generalist at AAR in Rockford, Illinois) a lot and AAR made it very easy to transition. 

How was your early experience at AAR being an aviation maintenance technician?

I had a flexible start date and spent about the first week in training to ease into work. It’s very fast-paced and I’m learning as I go. My coworkers take the time to get to know me and see how I learn—and they work with me. The transition really was seamless.

What kinds of maintenance tasks have you been doing?

I’ve been doing some pretty cool stuff. I’ve run flight controls a bit and we just removed tires and brakes from an aircraft so that they can change the axles. I’ve removed a bunch of stuff on AC pack 1 on the Airbus A330. I worked on a Boeing 777 briefly. I’ve gotten to do a lot of different things. There is so much to an aircraft!

Having come from the military, what advice to you have for MROs to attract people?

The Skillbridge program is a really good way but I think aviation maintenance needs to be promoted more. When I went, a lot of my shipmates hadn’t heard about the program. There are a lot of people interested in being mechanics but they don’t know what kind of mechanic they want to be. Car mechanics are more obvious. Aviation is a very interesting field so we need to promote it more. I’d reach out to high schools, too.

As a woman in a traditionally male dominated role, what has the experience been like? How can companies work to bring more women into maintenance careers?

I really don’t think it has been bad. The guys help me and I’m good friends with one of the females here. I’d reach out to women who like to do hands-on work and don’t mind getting dirty. Going back to the military: we are not the women who want to do regular things and don’t mind getting dirty.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.

Lee Ann Shay

As executive editor of MRO and business aviation, Lee Ann Shay directs Aviation Week's coverage of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), including Inside MRO, and business aviation, including BCA.