MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- A critical piece in the preparation to fly in an F-16 Fighting Falcon is to ensure the pilots are equipped for any situation.
The 35th Operations Support Squadron's aircrew flight equipment technicians fix helmets, oxygen masks, harnesses and all life-saving equipment, providing the highest level of attention to detail to a pilot’s gear because it is the difference between life and death.
“Our motto is ‘When everything else fails, we are the last ones to let them down’," said Senior Airman Dominic Cicci, a 35th OSS AFE technician. “Preserving the life of the aircrew is our mission.”
During a recent aviation training relocation to Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, two AFE specialists fitted and briefed four Airmen from various career fields on survival gear and how to operate it prior to a familiarization flight.
Cicci was among the four who received the ride of a lifetime.
“It was an intense ride,” he said. “To physically experience the equipment I work on every day was awesome. I walked away with a greater understanding of why my job is important.”
Because of the 13th Fighter Squadron giving back to their dedicated Airmen as a thank you, Cicci gained the situational awareness to better explain the use of the equipment to any flyer in the future.
“The flight will help me perform my job better,” Cicci continued.
Tech. Sgt. Steven Colby Means, a 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons expediter, Staff Sgt. Dylan Wyant, a 35th Fighter Wing information security systems officer and Airman 1st Class Christopher Butler, a 35th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, also received familiarization flights in an F-16.
"Giving Airmen from various career fields an F-16 flight provides them with a better understanding of what happens at the operational end of the spectrum,” said Lt. Col Wesley Hales, the 13th FS director of operations.
Riding in the backseat of a Viper provides first-hand experience of what a pilot’s body goes through and what it takes in order to execute a mission set.
“I know pilots are essential to the mission’s success, but now I know how much effort and energy they put in for a mission to be successful,” said Butler.
The Airmen who received the flights provide underlying support to flying operations; however, they may not always understand how their efforts contribute to bigger mission.
“Bridging that gap is vital to enhancing the warrior mentality that makes us lethal in combat and keeps us sharp,” Hales said. “It's why we elected to fly security forces, aircrew flight equipment, communications and maintenance Airmen during this ATR.”
Understanding the mission at all levels allows an individual to have a greater sense of purpose.
“If they walk away from their flight motivated about their contribution to the fight, then the sortie was a success,” Hales concluded.