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Last to Let You Down

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Airman 1st Class Heather Jackson, 2nd Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment parachute section, begins to sew a portion of a BA-21 parachute harness on Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Aug. 4, 2014. AFE Airmen are tasked with the responsibility of maintaining the equipment that may end up saving their lives one day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Benjamin Gonsier)

AFE keeps airmen safe with parachute, survival kit maintenance

Story by Senior Airman Benjamin Gonsier, 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — Aircrew members perform a dangerous job, flying for long hours in potentially dangerous areas. When an aircrew has no choice but to egress from the aircraft, they place trust in the Airmen who maintain the equipment that will keep them alive.

The 2nd Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment parachute and helmet sections maintain life-saving equipment hoping the aircrew never needs to use it.

The parachute section, or chute shop, is responsible for the parachutes and survival kits meant to bring the aircrew to safety in the case of an egress.

“We inspect every string, stitch and mechanism used to keep the parachutes serviceable,” said Senior Airman Jereme Haynie, 2nd OSS AFE parachute section. “The survival kits contain everything needed to survive in an isolated area like a desert or large body of water in the event the aircrew has ejected from the aircraft.”

The responsibility of these Airmen may be large, but the satisfaction of possibly saving lives makes the job worth doing.

“Knowing that the equipment we maintain and inspect on a daily basis may one day save someone’s life gives me the motivation and drive to strive for perfection,” Haynie said. “The type of work we do is particular and specific, so attention to detail is an essential aspect of our job.”

While an aircrew member has not ejected from a B-52H Stratofortress in decades, passing inspections and getting through exercises shows the aircrew they are performing at an above average level.

“Performing well on inspections and exercises demonstrates to the aircrew we are capable of keeping them safe,” Haynie said.

The parachute section’s counterpart, the helmet section, specializes in aircrew safety also. Their.

“Other than maintaining and inspecting the helmets, we are also responsible for the floatation devices, aircrew chemical gear, cold weather suits and much more,” said Airman Michael Banks, 2nd OSS AFE helmet shop. “We look for tears on the variety of suits they may wear and floatation devices.”

Like the chute shop, attention to detail is the most crucial aspect of the job. The helmet section takes every piece of the helmet apart, inspects and cleans every piece and then reassembles it.

“When an aircrew member comes to our section with a question or wants their equipment refitted or adjusted, it is our duty to perform the task requested,” Banks said. “Every time I give an aircrew member their equipment, I feel proud and confident that it will save their life if the time comes.”

Safety is a serious concern for aircrew members, which is why they are appreciative of the hard work and dedication AFE provides them.

“The professional and unique skills AFE provides aircrew members gives me peace of mind while performing a dangerous job,” said Capt. Andrew Jerz, 2nd Operations Support Squadron Mission Support Flight commander. “Their assistance allows my crew and I to focus on the mission and that we will return home safely in the event we have to use the equipment.”

AFE is the last to let Aircrew down, which is why their dedication ensures every piece of equipment is ready in an emergency.