VaANG officer brings experience from motorsports to the flightline

Capt. Andrew Gibler poses for a photo on the flightline on March 8, 2020, at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia. He has applied his experience and passion for mechanics to his job as a maintenance officer in the 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. — His grandfather instilled in him a passion for cars and racing early on at the drag strip, not far from his hometown in Brodhead, Wisconsin. But as he got older, Capt. Andrew Gibler said he didn’t invest the time he probably should have in the family’s pastime.

“Especially when I got to high school, and I was too cool,” Gibler said.

Now, as an adult and a maintenance officer in the Virginia Air National Guard’s 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Gibler spends whatever free time he has designing, developing, and producing suspension components for race cars.

Capt. Andrew Gibler works on one of his race cars on March 12, 2020, in Springfield, Virginia. He has applied his experience and passion for mechanics to his job as a maintenance officer in the 192nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham)

More specifically, with his grandfather still an inspiration, Gibler focuses on building components for Mustang race cars.

“My grandfather grew up in a time when brand loyalty was everything,” Gibler said. “Back then, you were either a Ford guy, or a Chevy guy…”

Housed in his home-workshop is a 1989 Ford Mustang, which at 18 years old, Gibler bought from his grandfather and built “from the ground up.”

Gibler, along with his two partners, Mark and Beau, have been working to turn their hobby into something more with their suspension system designed to make racing more cost-effective for “weekend racers” like themselves.

The team, which goes by the name “Peak Alpha Motorsports,” has been working on the prototype for the last three years, and if adopted, would cut costs for racers by up to $6,000.

“We’re just trying to make it so that people can compete and win for a little bit more of an affordable price than we see,” Gibler said. “I hope we can create a product that will be able to compete on the track and that [drivers] are happy with.”

As an officer in the aircraft maintenance field, Gibler’s job is to ensure maintainers on the flightline have the resources they need to successfully execute the mission and guide operations on a day-to-day basis.

Even though his role is more on a strategic level, he explained his passion for and understanding of mechanics is paramount to serving the Airmen in his squadron as they face obstacles.

“When they come and tell me what’s going on, my mechanical background has allowed me to understand what they’re doing…and [I’m] able to help them out in a way that some may not be able to because they don’t understand that background,” he said.

An alumnus of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Gibler graduated as a second lieutenant with a bachelor’s in economics in 2012 before serving six years on active duty, including two years as an Officer Training School instructor. He’s just one class away from his master’s in engineering management and said he decided on the VaANG in 2018 because he wasn’t quite ready to hang up his uniform completely.

Gibler works as a full-time Air National Guard technician at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, where he said he’s “at the heart of the flightline, which is what I really enjoy.”

He’s settled in the local area with his wife and three children, a 3-year-old son and 3-month-old twins. Once he retires from the military, he plans on pursuing a career in motorsports overseeing a racing team.

(Story by Staff Sgt. Lucretia Cunningham, 192nd Wing)