AFE technicians maintain life support gear for pilots during Red Flag 12-4

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Stephanie Mancha
  • 23d Wing Public Affiars
Five aircrew flight equipment technicians with the 23d Operations Support Squadron, from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., join 25AFE servicemembers from different units in support of the 273 Red Flag aircrew members during exercise Red Flag 12-4 here.

Thirty one A-10C Thunderbolt II pilots with the 74th Fighter Squadron from Moody are participating in Red Flag 12-4, an air combat exercise known for its realistic combat training missions. The AFE technicians are here to support and ensure the A-10 pilots are ready to "step out" on to the flightline and into the aircraft.

"The aircrew depend on our gear to make sure that they are not only able to sustain during the mission, but if they had an emergency and had to eject out of the aircraft that's when they would definitely think about the equipment that is on them because we ... take care of the oxygen equipment anti-G suit, harness and parachute that is going to get them out and get them safe on the ground," said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Sonya Couture, 23d OSS aircrew flight equipment superintendent.

There are four launches, or "goes" as they're called, each day. The day shift takes care of the first two goes, and the night shift the last two. Each AFE shift is about eight to nine hours a day depending on the flying schedule. The Airmen ensure all the gear is prepared and pre-flighted for the aircrew. They also help fit the equipment and make any changes to the equipment before stepping out and driving the aircrew to and from the flightline.

"They also have done full on 30 day inspections on the equipment," said Couture. "They completely take apart the mask to the smallest screw inspect every portion of it and put it back together. Then they perform a very in dept inspection on the helmet and harness and make any repairs needed on the spot every 28 days."

Moody's AFE technicians have inspected 17 full sets, which include the helmet, mask and harness and three anti-G suits during the first week of Red Flag. If the pilot has any issues with the equipment during the pre or post-flight inspection, the technicians fix the gear on the spot and store it in the locker for the next mission.

"We work with the pilots and check their gear. It's important because they need to have gear they can rely on and we make it happen. If they punch out their chute will deploy, their harness will work [and] they'll be able to see at night with their night vision goggles to complete the mission," said Airman 1st Class Andrew Mesa, 23d OSS aircrew flight equipment technician.

The day shift conducts a pre-flight inspection of the night gear, to include the night vision goggles, and the night shift technicians issue the gear to the pilots. The night shift will then have the pilots perform a hands on inspection of the goggles in a dark room using a 20/20 tester before heading to the flight line. The pilots check the visual acuity of the NVGs and ensure their focus is right for them. When the pilots return from their missions, AFE performs a post flight inspection and gets the equipment ready for the next mission.

There are nine different units at Red Flag to include the U.S. Marines and Navy, and Colombian and United Arab Emirates air forces. Although they're all here to support their own units they work closely with one another giving them opportunity to learn from the different units, services and countries.

"We're here to support our guys from Moody, but if someone is missing a tool we help each other out so that we can get the aircrew out the door," Mesa said.

Couture said no matter the unit, service or country, at Red Flag they all have the same mission.

"For me this is my first experience with Red Flag and I thought it was interesting see how close it is to an actual deployment. It was very unique to see the different services and countries; similarities and differences with our job. But we all have the same goal of getting the aircrew out the door, in the jet and getting them back safely," she said.

Red Flag is two weeks of air combat training, which simulates a wartime environment for military units. It's a multinational, multiservice training that started in 1975 and trains pilots for real combat situations.

"Being at Red Flag is very similar to being deployed as far as the schedule and the amount of space we have to work with ... it's definitely not your usual shop. It takes you outside the box and teaches you to work with exactly what you have in your inventory supply unit (ISU) and it brings on the importance of making sure you have everything you need before a deployment in your ISU. I think it will give the Airmen that have never been deployed an idea what they have to bring during a deployment," Couture said.

For Mesa, Red Flag is a learning experience since he has never been deployed. Here he is learning different processes he doesn't accomplish at his home station. The California native is excited about leaving his home station and being in an atmosphere that is similar to a deployed location.

"It's my first TDY. I've learned a lot like how to build a inventory supply unit, how to fill out all the paperwork and the steps you need to take before you deploy. I've also had the chance to interact with the pilots, which is something I've enjoyed here," Mesa said.

For Couture, she said she is impressed by the level of teamwork among all the Airmen, Marines and Sailors deployed to Red Flag 12-4.

"My team has been doing an excellent job here at Red Flag. We've had no problems; anything that has popped up unexpectedly they have problem solved and took care of it pretty quickly. I am really proud of them," Couture said.