FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. --
No one tends to give equipment a second thought but the 92nd Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen work diligently to ensure aircrew safety and mission readiness by preparing all necessary gear.
The 92nd OSS AFE airmen are in charge of ensuring aircraft are equipped with emergency survival equipment as well as mission essential gear.
“Knowing that the aircrew member’s lives are in your hands makes you appreciate the job just a little bit more,” said Senior Airman Ryan Richardson, 92nd OSS AFE Journeyman. “My favorite part of the job is talking to the aircrew and traveling … you really get to see the aircrew members actually use the equipment and you get to appreciate it a little bit better.”
Equipment such as helmets, masks, safety gear, etc. that AFE inspects has to be thorough because if not, lives could potentially be in danger.
“The most challenging part, I will say is ensuring that people don't become complacent and not following proper guidelines from the technical orders while inspecting equipment,” Richardson said. “When you are dealing with equipment that actually has the aircrew lives in your hands in case of an emergency, you have to follow [inspections] by the book each and every time.”
If problems are occurring on an aircraft that are making it unsafe for takeoff a “red ball” should be declared and AFE Airmen will go and fix problems such as oxygen masks or communication issues that the aircrew may be experiencing.
“I think the most critical moments are the red balls here,” said Staff Sgt. Lillie Schindlbeck, 92nd OSS AFE technician. “They typically call red ball if their masks are having issues with communications or an issue with mission essential equipment.”
AFE airmen are either going to the flight line, repairing general equipment, or ensuring safety devices are fully functional.
“Our motto or slogan is, ‘Last to let you down’ because our equipment is what they're relying on in case emergency,” Schindlbeck said.
By maintaining and inspecting critical aircrew safety equipment, Team Fairchild’s 92nd OSS AFE flight ensures the 92nd Air Refueling Wing can continue its success as U.S. Air Force’s premier air refueling wing.