Airman 1st Class Conner Scott, an aircrew flight equipment journeyman with the 3rd Operations Support Squadron, inspects an inflatable life jacket at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Jan. 5, 2018. Inflatable life jackets activate when water is detected or can be deployed manually by the wearer. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Caitlin Russell)
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON (JBER), Alaska -- For every pilot in the air, there are Airmen on the ground ensuring their equipment is well-maintained and operable.
At JBER, aircrew flight equipment (AFE) shops are responsible for maintaining, inspecting and servicing all equipment aircrew require while performing their duties.
“One of our slogans is ‘We’re the last to let you down,’” said Senior Airman Kade McCammon, 3rd Operations Support Squadron (OSS) AFE journeyman. “Pilots depend on the AFE team to guarantee their equipment is working properly for any operation.”
Helmets, masks, harnesses, anti-G force suits and communication equipment are all under the AFE team’s responsibility.
AFE Airmen also prepare parachutes, ejection seats and survival kits. Each survival kit includes a tourniquet, fire sticks, compass, head lamp and night vision goggles.
Included in the equipment are items specific to Alaska–cold weather gear and survival radios.
“Our team performs pre and post-flight, daily and weekly inspections of all the equipment,” McCammon said. “During the inspections we ensure equipment is functional, not expired, and has no rips or tears.”
Every piece of equipment used by aircrew members has requirements for how often it needs to be inspected.
While maintaining normal operations during duty hours, AFE Airmen also rotate around-the-clock shifts to perform pre and post-flight inspections for pilots flying night operations.
Included in the daily work is providing customer service to the pilots and other aircrew members. AFE Airmen work to answer questions or concerns, or assist with equipment.
“The gear we service is vital to aircrew safety,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Darius Clarke, 3rd OSS AFE assistant noncommissioned officer in charge. “While the majority of pilots will never experience the need for their flight and survival equipment, it is still the number one priority that it work every time.”
With properly maintained gear being a major priority for the AFE team, there can be challenges for Airmen.
“Challenges AFE Airmen can face involve adjusting to the different equipment they handle, performing timely inspections, and staying updated on training,” Clarke said.
With step-by-step instructions on how to inspect and maintain gear, while learning how to balance training and work, the AFE team is able to overcome any obstacle.
Duties for Airmen can vary depending on the flyer squadron they are attached to. Each flying squadron has an AFE unit attached to provide support to that specific squadron’s mission.
However, even with the various duties, the mission for AFE Airmen remains the same – to ensure equipment safety for all aircrew.
“We’re in the business of saving lives,” said Senior Airman David Texada, 3rd OSS AFE journeyman. “We want to make sure everyone makes it home to their families at the end of the day.”