The last line of defense

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A U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot returns his flight gear to the 355th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment shop at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 28, 2020. AFE shops are responsible for ensuring that all flight safety equipment is in good working order. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)
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The 355th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen are always actively saving pilots’ lives by equipping them with critical gear in an event that something goes wrong.

AFE shops across Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., are responsible for the safety gear that pilots wear during flight, as well as emergency survival packs stored in an aircraft.

“We work on all the equipment pilots need for survival,” said Senior Airman Sarah Maher, 924th Fighter Group AFE technician. “We have to make sure everything we do keeps them safe in the air, protects them all the way down to the ground and sustains them while they are on the ground, if they are in that situation.”

This gear must be thoroughly inspected before use to ensure nothing goes wrong in a situation where it may be needed. They must also provide training to pilots who use the gear, making sure they understand how to wear and work their equipment under any circumstance.

“I organize, train, and equip to protect and sustain human life during flight operations,” said Staff Sgt. Chase Lyth, 355th OSS AFE technician. “I train Airmen to inspect gear and train pilots to properly use the equipment to ensure their safety.”

AFE is critical in helping Davis-Monthan pilots complete their mission. If the aircraft fails, their flight equipment will not. Due to the meticulous work and inspections completed before the equipment is used, pilots have complete faith in their gear when they step.

“We can’t make a mistake,” said Maher, “We want our pilots to have that 100 percent trust that their technicians know what they’re doing. They depend on us, their families depend on us and that’s something we can be proud of.”

The equipment AFE works on is a pilot’s last line of defense if all else fails. They are continually accomplishing their mission so pilots are always prepared to provide combat airpower at any time around the globe.

A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 355th Operations Support Squadron attaches gear to a helmet at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 28, 2020. The OSS Aircrew Flight Equipment shops ensure that pilots are equipped with the safety equipment necessary to survive in case of an aircraft accident. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sarah Maher, 924th Fighter Group Aircrew Flight Equipment technician, conducts a parachute inspection at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Sep. 2, 2020. The primary mission of AFE is to provide and maintain survival flight equipment for aircrew members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Sarah Maher, 924th Fighter Group Aircrew Flight Equipment technician, conducts a parachute inspection at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Sep. 2, 2020. The primary mission of AFE is to provide and maintain survival flight equipment for aircrew members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)
A parachute undergoes an Aircrew Flight Equipment inspection at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Sep. 2, 2020. AFE inspections are critical to ensuring a pilots safety when in-flight emergency evacuation is necessary. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)
A U.S. Air Force Airman assigned to the 355th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment shop inspects flight gear at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Aug. 28, 2020. AFE’s meticulous pre-flight equipment inspections prevent pilots from receiving gear that is damaged or unusable. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kaitlyn J. Ergish)
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