Story by A1C Caitlin Russell on 01/31/2019Airmen with the 3d Operations Support Squadron and the 477th Operations Support Flight aircrew flight equipment shops participated in exercise Patriot Grizzly at Marine Air Station Miramar, San Diego, Calif., from Jan. 15 to Feb. 13, 2019.
"Pilots depend on the AFE team to guarantee their equipment is working properly for any mission," U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Justin Woolverton, 477th OSF aircrew flight equipment superintendent. "Our mission while we're here is to support our pilots."
Throughout the exercise, personnel performed duties similar to the JBER mission, such as, maintaining, inspecting and servicing all equipment aircrew require while performing their duties.
Helmets, masks, harnesses, anti-gravity force suits and communication equipment are all under the AFE team's responsibility.
"When performing a pre-flight inspection, we work with the pilot to ensure all their gear is operable," Woolverton said. "We hook them up to the Joint Close Air Support system where they test oxygen levels, pressure and leakage, and communication. Following the flight, we do an even more intricate inspection where we clean the gear, check the communication and ensure nothing looks out of place. We also perform 30 day inspections where we tear everything apart, thoroughly clean it and look for any fraying or tearing. Once the gear checks out, we put it all back together and it's good for another 30 days."
Every piece of equipment used by aircrew members has requirements for how often it needs to be inspected, and the schedule of when equipment needs to be serviced creates the workflow.
"Each day, we look over the flying schedule to make sure we know when everyone is stepping to their jets and figure out what gear needs to be inspected," said Air Force Senior Airman Thomas McCormack, 477th OSF AFE journeyman.
From maintaining helmets to sewing vests, AFE Airman stay focused on the mission, ensuring they maintain a level of attention to safeguard the integrity of the flight gear.
"The gear we service is vital to aircrew safety," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Darius Clarke, 3rd Operations Support Squadron 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."
Whether on temporary duty or at JBER, the mission for AFE Airmen remains the same ensuring equipment safety for all aircrew.