The Airmen of Luke Air Force Base work tirelessly to ensure the safety of each mission launched from the base. While it’s rare for something to go wrong, if something were to happen, a pilot would want to know that the emergency equipment such as the ejection seat, parachute and survival kit are working properly.
The 56th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen maintain and repair pilots’ equipment so they can focus on the mission and come home safely at the end of the day.
“AFE is one of those support functions that, without it, the mission would fail,” said Lt. Col. Keith Rockow, 56th OSS commander. “AFE personnel help provide our fighter pilots with a combat advantage by maintaining our G-suits, night vision googles, and helmet-mounted cueing systems in top notch condition.”
The equipment is essential to ensure a safe flight.
“It doesn’t take long flying above 10,000 feet before the brain becomes deprived of oxygen,” Rockow said. “I won’t even mention how important I think it is that my parachute is packed correctly.”
The 56th OSS has more than 260 pieces of equipment that require at least a weekly servicing to ensure safety and to custom fit the equipment to each pilot’s individual needs.
“Being a pilot training base, every couple of months you get a new batch of students,” said Staff Sgt. Tevis Mack, 56th OSS aircrew flight equipment craftsman. “You have to check their gear, and even after their first flight they need additional gear checks. They’re new to being an F-16 pilot, so we go back and look at their equipment to ensure it fits properly.”
The 56th OSS doesn’t just assist the U.S. Air Force, they also help out foreign military branches training at Luke.
“The Belgian air force needed night vision displays so they could perform night operations,” said Senior Airman Patrick Springfeldt, 56th OSS AFE journeyman. “It was great to be able to help out with foreign military training here and be able to make a difference for their mission.”
Without the AFE, pilots wouldn’t be able to complete their mission.
“Our AFE Airmen are very good at what they do,” Rockow said. “Pilots rarely have to think about their flight equipment which is how it should be. If you ever fly a sortie with a harness, mask or some other piece of equipment that isn’t fitting correctly, then you’ll feel it the whole flight and after. It makes you appreciate the work AFE does on a daily basis.”
AFE Airmen understand the importance of what they do.
“The pilots need the equipment to be safe so they can be confident they will come back to their families at the end of the day,” Springfeldt said. “That’s an accomplishment to be proud of.”