JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. --, –
Aircrew members are required to execute a variety of tasks during missions. An Airman’s knowledge and skill is crucial in completing these responsibilities. Some may even say the quality of equipment they are equipped with are equally as critical.
From take-off to landing, aircrew members can be presented with a variety of dangerous situations. When an incident occurs thousands of feet in the air, the tools available can determine a bad or good outcome.
Airmen of the 437th Operations Support Squadron assigned to the aircrew flight equipment flight are the technicians that ensure aircrew and passengers on an aircraft are provided with quality gear in case a dangerous situation occurs.
“I think it’s extremely important and a pretty awesome opportunity to be able to work on some of the equipment that we do like the personal restrain harness that’s used almost on a daily basis by loadmasters,” said Staff Sgt. Christopher Mills, 437th OSS AFE flightline work center NCO in Charge. “They put it on and operate near the back of an aircraft with the door open. They depend on us to do our job.”
AFE Airmen here inspect 20,000 pieces of equipment and service 1,100 aircrew members and 48 C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. This inventory ranges from oxygen masks to life preservers and body armor to night vision goggles.
“They’re flying during night operations and if they can’t see what they’re doing because of distractions on the lens or if the battery goes dead the mission could go very sour real fast for the aircrew member flying the aircraft,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Spears 437th NVG combat survival evader locaters NCO in charge. “Additionally, for the survival radios, if we don’t load those them with the right parameters going to a specific location it could be the difference between getting back home or not. It’s very important for me to know that in the event of an incident they are able to get back to their families.”
In order to ensure each and every piece of equipment is up to standard, Spears said that preparation and following procedures precisely is vital.
“Any training we give, the Airmen completely absorb it,” said Spears. “If I’m not doing my job right it means that I can’t train right and therefore the next generation of AFE technicians might not execute properly. It’s very important for me to remain proficient to the smallest detail.”
Airman 1st Class Ion Radu, 437th OSS AFE apprentice, attributes the training and camaraderie within the unit to the professionalism and quality work the unit demonstrates day-to-day.
“Anyone you go to in the shop will help you no matter what,” said Radu. “No matter what your question is they’ll give you an answer if you don’t know it. I really appreciate Staff Sgt. Mills’ work ethic and he is very willing to train people.
“I haven’t worked with Staff Sgt. Spears, but when I first got here I could tell he was very dedicated because he came to the airport even though he didn’t need to just to greet me,” added Radu.
The training and attention to detail has been noticed by the aircrew members that the 437th OSS AFE Airmen serve. According to one pilot, the flying mission here would be impossible without their professionalism and efforts.
“The Airmen at the AFE section really help us with our mission,” said 1st Lt Ashley Flanagan, 16th Airlift Squadron C-17 Globemaster III pilot. “If our equipment isn’t up to standard or current then we can’t do our mission and we’re not going to be able to fly safe. Without them the mission stops. It’s a 24/7 operation and they make sure we’re safe. It’s amazing what they do.”