AFE shop provides crucial support for aircrew, passengers

‘Your life is our business’

The 445th Operations Group has many key players in its organization to keep the wing’s mission going. The 445th Operations Support Squadron has a number of those key players, in particular, the aircrew flight equipment shop.

Before departing on a mission, every C-17 Globemaster III at the 445th Airlift Wing is strategically stocked with inflatable rafts, parachutes, oxygen systems, flotation devices and more. AFE Airmen maintain the safety and emergency equipment for aircrew and passengers departing from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“We organize, train and equip so that the aircrew can complete their mission and return safely to their families,” said Master Sgt. Diego Cancino, aircrew flight equipment training instructor. “Every piece of equipment we touch has every ounce of our pride in it, knowing that it would potentially save someone’s life, and allow them to return safely. We pride ourselves in our support to the Ops group mission, and that pride reflects on the success of the sorties we fly.”

Cancino said everything they inspect, preposition and train on could possibly be used on the worst day of an aircrew member’s life.

“AFE’s specific mission statement is, ‘Your life is our business.’ When everything has failed and an Airman is down to that most crucial moment, that oxygen mask, parachute or emergency life raft working properly could be the difference between life and death,” he said.

“We take that very seriously here in AFE and have dedicated our lives to the craft.”

Staff Sgt. Brett Schindler, NCO in charge of the helmets and chemical defense gear section, maintains the helmets and oxygen masks pilots use during day and night flights, including their night-vision goggles.

“Being able to teach new pilots how the gear works is quite nice,” he said. “That way, they have a small sense of what they should be looking for in case of an inflight emergency, to possibly be able to fix the problem to keep them safe.”

Schindler said working in AFE throughout his career at Wright-Patterson AFB and other bases has brought him many memorable experiences.

“I’ve enjoyed helping to teach water and combat survival training,” he added. “It’s nice to know that if they went down, I did my best to help train them on how to get out of a bad situation, whether in the water or downed behind enemy lines.”

Cancino said he has come across Airmen who don’t feel like what they do for the Air Force is important or matters, such as a simple job of wiping out an oxygen mask with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol.

“Those who are in the background providing support do have a large impact on the mission,” he said. “Everyone makes a difference, everyone is important. The 445th Airlift Wing mission attributes its success to the Airmen that support it, and mission support is our business.”

(Stacy Vaughn contributed to this story.)

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