AFE Airmen provide tools to survive
By Senior Airman Janelle Patiño, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 02, 2018
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Soaring through the air thousands of feet up can be scary especially if the parachute doesn’t deploy properly.
Part of the flight preparation checklist is making sure the aircrew is equipped with supplies for any situation that may arise. Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen are the ones who ensure the safety of every flyer by providing them essential survival gear.
These Airmen are responsible for ensuring all safety and flight equipment are ready to be used by the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school to accomplish their mission. They manage the inspection, maintenance and adjustments of every piece of equipment.
“Our main mission is to support SERE training by providing them with safely prepared tools, such as parachutes and floatation gear,” said Staff Sgt. Mathew Trombetta, 336th Training Support Squadron AFE NCO in charge. “With the tools we provide, SERE instructors are able to prepare students for what they will potentially deal with in the future.”
No matter the weather or environment, the gear is taken everywhere, which causes severe wear and tear. However, constantly replacing gear comes at significant cost, therefore, AFE Airmen save time and money by repairing the equipment, ensuring SERE instructors can continue to train future generations of aircrew and SERE students.
“The instructors are able to train future pilots, navigators, SERE specialists and other Airmen with the potential of being in a survival situation with the skills and confidence to return with honor,” Trombetta said. “These instructors wouldn’t be able to teach their students on how to operate the gear if we didn’t maintain and repair the training equipment.”
The AFE’s mission is one of vital importance; they work with a “zero mistake” standard in order for them to alleviate concerns of equipment failure and to prevent accidents from occurring.
We pay very close attention to detail because one small mistake can result in someone’s injury or death, Trombetta said.
AFE supports SERE’s helicopter operations, which includes live rescue hoist training, para-drop demonstrations and combat rescue training for more than 3,000 students per year, said Staff Sgt. Tracy Hageman, 36th Rescue Squadron AFE specialist.
AFE goes above and beyond by providing support to the National Search and Rescue service. With the help of AFE Airmen, 36th RQS performed more than 600 searches and rescues since they started.
“For emergencies off base, we keep a designated locker where aircrew can find anything and everything they will need for a search and rescue mission,” Hageman said.
Many overlook what AFE Airmen do for the mission but without them, future pilots, navigators and SERE specialists would not have the proper lifesaving training and skills to return home safely with honor.