EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- The 354th Operations Support Squadron's Aircrew Flight Equipment (AFE) shop was named the Air Force's AFE Small Program of the Year for 2019.
Although small in size, the team racked up numerous accomplishments for their continuous support of the 18th Aggressor Squadron and for their efforts preparing for two new F-35 fighter squadrons.
News of the unit’s award came as no surprise to their squadron commander, Lt. Col. Nathaneal Karrs, who said he’s gotten used to seeing the shop provide exceptional support and deliver results.
“This shop always does good work and so I’ve become acclimated to that,” he admitted. “The equipment is always ready, it’s working and if there ever is an issue they’re knowledgeable and quick to solve it.”
Among their significant accomplishments was the development of the first F-35 Arctic Seat Kit pioneered by Master Sgt. John Williams, the 356th Fighter Squadron AFE NCO in charge.
“The joint program office asked this shop to find a solution to an issue that affects the entire F-35 program, and it fell squarely on the shoulders of these NCOs and Airmen to solve,” said Karrs. “It was by far the biggest challenge and accomplishment last year.”
The team also began the design and execution plans for two new F-35 AFE facilities all while supporting the 18th AGRS mobile training team in a number of exercises throughout the Indo-Pacific region.
With an award-winning year behind them, Master Sgt. Dustin Ogburn, the 354th AFE superintendent, said his shop is looking ahead to 2020, which will be a big year for the entire Iceman team.
"Last year we focused on growing our shop, training our newest technicians, preparing for the F-35 while still supporting the Aggressors non-stop," he said. "But it doesn't stop there. We still have to bed down all aircraft and pilots and prepare for future combat operations. It's a lot of work but we have the team to get it done."
“The word that comes to mind is ‘honored’,” Karrs said of leading one of the Air Force’s best teams, but he attributes all of its success to the enlisted leaders.
“The NCO corps ... the NCOs that run AFE, they’re what makes this team successful,” he said.