55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published January 26, 2018
Jerrica Skipper, an artist from Carriere, Mississippi, poses for a photo next to nose art on an RC-135S Cobra Ball reconnaissance aircraft Jan. 23, 2018, inside the Benny L. Davis Maintenance Facility at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Skipper visited Offutt to see her design that was recently installed on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)
A close-up of nose newly installed nose art designed by Jerrica Skipper on an RC-135S Cobra Ball reconnaissance aircraft. The design features a ball representing Earth, a purple trail with a star representing a missile, and a snake that represents an RC-135 Cobra Ball aircraft protecting the Earth. Skipper, who is from Carriere, Mississippi, visited Offutt Air Force Base, Neb. Jan. 23, 2018, to see her nose art design on the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Delanie Stafford)
An RC-135S Cobra Ball assigned to the 55th Wing here was the latest aircraft to receive nose art as part of an effort to bring back a popular tradition used during World War II where units decorated their aircraft to display unit pride.
The design’s artist, Jerrica Skipper, traveled here Jan. 23 to see the nose art, which will now be permanently displayed on the reconnaissance aircraft for years to come as it carries out missions across the world.
“It’s crazy that I was able to get this opportunity,” said Skipper. “I never thought something like this would happen to me in little Carriere, Mississippi.”
It was only by chance that she got the opportunity. It started when maintainers in the 83rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit squadron began looking for a good artist.
“After having different nose art discussions with my wife, Marcia, we reached out to her brother, Dustin Black, a Chevron engineer based in Mobile, Alabama,” said retired Air Force Master Sgt. Rick Brown who was assigned to the 83rd AMU.
Her brother, a former military service-member, also appreciated nose art. He mentioned the need for a talented artist with his colleague, who said he knew of a “brilliant” artist named Jerrica Skipper.
Once the connection was made, Brown discussed their vision with her and provided a patch previously worn by crewmembers in the 1960s and 70s. From there, she took the concept and ran with it.
Brown said the design is symbolic of the aircraft’s mission.
“The ball represents the Earth, the purple part with the star is the missile coming up from the earth and the snake, which represents the aircraft, is protecting the Earth,” Brown said.
As part of Skipper’s visit, Brown gave her a personal tour of the aircraft where she received a letter of appreciation along with mementos from the 55th Maintenance Group.
Skipper said she’s been drawing and painting since grade school and was excited to be a part of such a unique opportunity.
“I’ve always had a love for art and [mixed martial arts],” Skipper said. “It’s how I express myself; through art and fighting. I like to paint with passion and energy.”
Nose art has historically been a tradition led by maintainers. The maintainers at Offutt often work in the worst of weather, both here and deployed, to make sure 55th Wing aircraft are capable of carrying out the wing’s global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
Brown said nose art is important to the morale of those units.
“It instills pride and honor in the maintainers who experience the constant pressure and grind of keeping these aircraft flying,” Brown said. “Nose art is more than a piece of art – it is a symbol of the maintainers’ dedication and perseverance to ensuring freedom for all.”
Brown and his colleague, retired Senior Master Sgt. Chad Heithoff, came up with idea in 2015 with the full support of their leadership.
Col. Clayton Seale, the 55th Maintenance Group commander, said he’s glad to see the nose art program become such a success.