DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
There are many questions that C-130J Super Hercules pilots and other aircrew members have to worry about when preparing for a mission such as: what is the mission itself? Does the aircrew and aircraft have the resources that are needed? What can they expect to encounter on the mission?
For some aircrew, their health and safety on the aircraft itself is much lower of a priority. This is not due a lack of desire for self-preservation, but because they can rely on the hard work, dedication and detail of Airmen working within the 317th Operational Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment shop.
“Our job is to inspect, repair and repack aircrew flight equipment,” said Senior Airman Ian Hess, 317th OSS AFE technician. “We allow aircrew to do their jobs safely and efficiently no matter what their mission is, because they can rely on our equipment to keep them safe.”
Several pieces of equipment that the shop is responsible for include parachutes, water survival equipment, oxygen masks, hazardous material gear, radios, harnesses and helmets. Every item must be inspected and tested regularly.
“Our inspection cycles range from 30 days to a year, depending on how often it’s used and what it’s used for,” Hess said. “It’s important that every piece of equipment that aircrew members have works the way it’s supposed to, so they can focus on the mission.”
Within the AFE shop, there are several section: Oxygen Equipment, Night Vision, Chemical Warfare, Parachute, Flightline, Flotation and Mobility. In total, there are more than 30 members of AFE in the 317th Airlift Wing who are always prepared to work the hours needed for the aircrews of the C-130s.
“We normally work standard business hours, but we’re ready to support a mission at any time,” Hess said. “From getting the call, we have half an hour to be in the shop. Depending on the type of mission and what pieces of equipment are needed, it will take another half hour or less to get them out the door to the aircraft.”
Although some shops get to see their hard work put to use on a daily basis, the AFE shop is different.
“We act very much like insurance,” said Tech. Sgt. Raymond Norris II, 317th OSS AFE quality inspector. “We don’t like knowing our equipment was used on a mission, such as a parachute or one-man life raft, but it’s a wonderful feeling to know our equipment kept our wingmen safe.”
For some members of the AFE shop, the biggest reward comes out of observing new Airmen grow their knowledge and expertise.
“As a quality inspector, it’s good to see how the younger Airmen progress in this job,” Norris said. “All of this equipment has to be inspected, repacked and maintained to the ‘T’, so while younger Airmen will sometimes fail, it’s a good feeling to see them learn from their mistakes and grow into experts of the shop and take pride in the work they do.”
Aircrew don’t have to worry about their parachutes, oxygen masks or any other piece of equipment on them, but the Airmen of the 317th OSS AFE shop have made sure it works so they can focus on employing tactical airlift worldwide whenever the call comes.