An organization attached to the 412th Maintenance Squadron here will not only be preparing to don the patch of the 412th Operations Support Squadron soon, but also become part of an existing career field.
As part of an Air Force-wide initiative, which occurred in 2008, to merge the Life Support and Survival Equipment career fields into one field, Team Edwards will now have a sole source for its aircrew flight equipment necessities.
The combined career field is called Aircrew Flight Equipment.
“Traditionally, the Survival Equipment section was aligned under maintenance, because they were involved with tasks like rigging and packing parachutes and maintaining the equipment that was used for survival, where as the Life Support career field was involved with performing most of the inspections on that same survival equipment and then training aircrew members on how to use that life support equipment,” Lt. Col. Aaron Reed, 412th Operations Support Squadron commander. “In order to increase efficiencies and create better synergy, the Air Force merged those two career fields about five years ago.”
According to Reed, the added benefit of having both shops merge was that Edwards as a whole would now have a one-stop shop with multiple skill sets.
“If you have an organization where you have several skill sets and if guys can be trained in these different skill sets, when there’s a backlog in one of the areas, whether it’s in the inspection side or the repair side, they can support the side that needs the help,” Reed said. “The end goal is that we have all the aircrews trained and their equipment loaded on the aircraft so there is no downtime and the aircraft is always mission-capable. If there are shortages because we don’t have the necessary amount of skilled workers, that could impact mission capable rates on the aircraft.”
As for the delay in the merger at Edwards, Reed explained that the postponement was due largely in part to the experimental High Performance Organization that was set up at Edwards around the inception of the new Aircrew Flight Equipment career field.
“Initially, we wanted to merge earlier, but a provision in the HPO regulation stated that while the civilian maintenance construct was still in existence here; the organization could not merge because it would have affected the way the base was trying to streamline organizations in the HPO construct,” added Reed. “That meant the base needed to go through the HPO initiative testing cycle to see how it would pan out in terms of the efficiency of operations.”
After more than four years of testing the HPO, one of the underlying issues became the way it wasn’t allowing military specialists in the Life Support Equipment career field to attain the proper training in the Survival Equipment career field, according to Reed.
“Because Aircrew Flight Equipment specialists were being tested for promotion in their Weighted Airman Promotion System and were being asked questions from both career fields, Airmen that were stationed here didn’t have that much exposure to the Survival Equipment portion of their career field, so it put them at a disadvantage,” said Reed.
As part of the new merged career field, Reed said that the training has always been one of the top priorities and is what the squadron is currently tackling in order to assure Life Support specialists begin training in July.
“The first priority is to cross train our military specialists into both the survival equipment side and continue providing the proficiency training in the traditional life support side,” said Tech. Sgt. Kyle Yager, 412th OSS NCO in charge of Aircrew Flight Equipment. “It gives our Airmen more of an opportunity to learn their entire job and not only to apply it towards the testing portion but it makes them feel more a part of our career field and if they end up being assigned to a different base they’re more of a benefit to other units since they won’t have to be fully trained on that portion of our career field.”
In addition to the Survival Equipment career field merging into the Aircrew Flight Equipment career field and under the 412th OSS, the Airdrop section will also be falling under the 412th OSS.
“One of the unique things that came with the merger of the Survival Equipment section is the Airdrop section of the 412th MXS,” said Reed. “The reason the maintenance squadron decided to do that is because a lot of the capabilities that the Airdrop civilians had were similar to the specialties the Survival Equipment specialists had.”
A majority of the Airdrop mission involves rigging loads for airdrop testing, according to Yager.
“In a mainline operational wing, you would have an aerial port squadron. We don’t have that here at Edwards and the Airdrop shop has been always trying to find a home, so we agreed to take in the Airdrop specialty because their main customer falls within the operations mission,” added Reed.
Unlike the Survival Equipment section, Reed said that Airdrop personnel will remain within their own designated career field.
“Overall, we’re very excited,” said Reed. “I’ve met with the folks that we’ll be absorbing and they’re going to bring a lot of experience to the AFE team because the majority of the specialists in the Survival Equipment shop have a lot of commercial ratings to include their experience in rigging parachutes that you wouldn’t get at a normal base, so that’s a unique opportunity for our military members. They are going to learn a lot under the experts that are coming over to our squadron.”