Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen put safety first at RED FLAG-Alaska

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Hennes, a 148th Fighter Wing aircrew flight equipment craftsman from Duluth, Minn., performs a pre-flight inspection on a pilot's helmet, Aug. 10, 2015, while participating in RED FLAG-Alaska 15-3 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska.  RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise for U.S. and partner nation forces, providing combined offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka/Released)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Richard Hennes, a 148th Fighter Wing aircrew flight equipment craftsman from Duluth, Minn., performs a pre-flight inspection on a pilot's helmet, Aug. 10, 2015, while participating in RED FLAG-Alaska 15-3 at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A is a Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercise for U.S. and partner nation forces, providing combined offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka/Released)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Pilot safety is of the utmost concern for 148th Fighter Wing aircrew flight equipment Airmen participating in RED FLAG-Alaska 15-3, and attention to detail is a critical component of their job.

During pre-flight inspection they will examine helmets, g-suits, masks, harnesses and survivor vests to make sure everything is in working order, referencing their technical orders at all times.  The process will start all over again when the pilot returns from the sortie.

Technical orders give specific guidance on whether aircrew flight equipment can be repaired or has to be replaced.  "When looking for holes in the g-suit; if the number of holes exceed the allowable standard you will have to replace it," explained Tech. Sgt. Richard Hennes, an aircrew flight equipment craftsman.  "We bring back up suits for each deployed pilot."

A lot of additional preparation is needed when going to a deployed location.  Airmen must make sure equipment is on a good inspection schedule and will not need replacing while deployed.  "It's a lot of prep work to do a pack-up and have spare parts for every piece of equipment," Hennes said.  "You are running your shop out of a suitcase and need to ensure you have the tools necessary to succeed.  Different deployments mean different requirements."

For Guard personnel with full-time civilian careers, RF-A is an opportunity to focus solely on their military duties.

For Senior Airman Tyson Dobe, an aircrew flight equipment apprentice, RF-A provides a chance to train and prepare for real world situations.  "RF-A gives me the opportunity to work a long stretch of days in a row and develop a rhythm," Dobe said.  "Here, all my time is dedicated to thinking about aircrew flight equipment, which is awesome."

Dobe used to be a firefighter and crossed trained into aircrew flight equipment, returning from technical school in January.  "I've been on other deployments as a firefighter but this feels like my first deployment," Dobe explained.  "I'm with a new office, different people and I have a whole new set of responsibilities.

"It helps a lot to be able to work with the more experienced guys in the shop on a day-to-day basis," Dobe added.  "I get to ask questions, look into things a little bit further and gain knowledge on the equipment."

"We're here to ensure the pilots' equipment is up to the best operational standard there is," said Hennes.  "We're here to do anything we can to help them out."