Aircrew flight equipment gears up

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Denise Jenson
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
A pilot walks along the scorching flight line toward their aircraft, their arms full of necessities they’ll need for the long flight ahead of them. Slung over their shoulder is a pack with items like food and water, and most importantly, their flying gear – the equipment that can be the difference between life and death for these pilots.

Before the pilots can even get their hands on their gear, however, they have to go through one important shop: the 28th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment.

“We inspect and repair all of the equipment the aircrew uses before they go on a flight to ensure it’s in top working order,” said Airman 1st Class Tre Willis, a 28th OSS AFE technician.

The AFE shop works heavily with a pilot’s daily equipment, which includes parachutes, night vision goggles, harnesses, helmets and oxygen masks. In addition to the standard ensemble these Airmen work with on a daily basis, there is also another important piece of gear that every Air Force pilot needs: their chemical defense equipment.

“When pilots arrive on station, they come to us for their [mission oriented protective posture] gear as well as their daily,” Willis said. “They have to do a training when they in-process here … so we can help them understand their equipment.”

In an effort to maintain readiness, the AFE shop conducts a quarterly training event called Aircrew Contamination Control Area. During this training, AFE technicians set up a decontamination line in the opposite direction of the wind and review the decontamination process with aircrew and anyone on base who may come in contact with chemical agents. 

“As part of the [training], aircrew learn how to properly decontaminate all of their equipment,” said Airman 1st Class Jecole Coman, a 28th OSS AFE technician. “Doing this ensures that, in the event of a chemical attack, none of the agents get on their skin or into their lungs.”

When it comes to AFE, the responsibilities laid on them can either make or break an aircrew’s safety, and they don’t take this responsibility lightly.

“Our job’s overall purpose is to save a life,” Coman said. “If they go out to fly with damaged equipment, it could mean life or death for them.”
Both Coman and Willis take pride in what they do.

“I love having the opportunity to be with the aircrew, learning about what they do and what they deal with,” Willis said. “I like being the person they come to when they have a problem with their gear.”

For Coman, her favorite aspect of the job, despite not doing it often at Ellsworth Air Force Base, is packing the crew’s parachutes. The in-depth knowledge and training that goes into packing a parachute and the hours spent on the attention to detail takes both mental and physical strength. But the end result is worth the meticulous effort put into it.

Understanding the gravity of being an AFE technician is realizing, in a way, that these Airmen are not only making repairs to pieces of equipment, they are also helping to keep pilots safe and alive, so the mission at hand can continue.