Safety first, always for AFE members
By Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 07, 2014
NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. -- When the Blue Force aircrews prepare for sorties during Red Flag 14-1, their focus is on meeting mission objectives and eliminating oppositional forces.
With such important demands requiring their attention, they trust a select group of individuals who ensure their life-support equipment is operational in the event of an emergency.
"We are responsible for safety inspections pertaining to all flying gear and are the last stop for members of the aircrew before they step to their respective jets," said Master Sgt. Shane Ward, 366th Operation Support Squadron NCO in charge of aircrew flight equipment, from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho. "We are responsible for providing safe and effective aircrew flight equipment which we do by using multiple safety inspections."
The AFE members perform both pre and post-flight inspections in order to ensure flight equipment safety.
"The inspections are performed on a continuous basis so if deficiencies are found they can be fixed and departure times aren't delayed," said Tech. Sgt. Andre Patterson, 366th OSS AFE technician. "That would have a negative effect on the training here at Red Flag."
Red Flag gives Airmen an opportunity to experience realistic combat scenarios which prepare and train them in the event of future conflicts or war.
"At any given time we could get a call and deploy within 72-hours and Red Flag helps ensure we are prepared to do exactly that," Ward said. "It's high-stress and a lot of work, but we know this experience will benefit us in the future."
More than 10 different AFE shops are currently working side-by-side while participating in Red Flag 14-1, including members from the Royal Australian and British air forces.
"We are truly enjoying the opportunity to work with these fellow service members," Patterson said. "Eventually we may have the chance to work with coalition partner nations when deployed and Red Flag is the place where we build fantastic working relationships."
During the exercise, military members, analysts and other positions from bases across the United States and other ally countries work together while fighting against the more-experienced Red Force, a group from Nellis AFB.
"All this increases our capabilities as an Air Force in fighting the Global War on Terrorism," Ward said. "We are lucky to have a great team here and a really strong group of senior NCOs."
Red Flag gives ground crews an opportunity to have their readiness tested in a controlled environment.
"The entire experience has been such a learning experience," said Senior Airman Albert Anderson, 366th OSS AFE technician. "Red Flag is so fast-paced which means we are extremely busy. For us, there is no room for error when it comes to the safety of aircrew. It's a ton of work but the rewards make it completely worth it."