Kadena: AFE insurance aircrews count on
KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Whether roaring through the air at mach 2, transporting personnel, hauling cargo or refueling other aircraft, aircrews at Kadena Air Base, Japan, rely on the hard work and keen eyes of aircrew flight equipment Airmen.
The 18th Operation Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment is the main training and equipment inspection hub for other AFE units across Kadena. These services provide vital support to combat ready forces across the Pacific.
“We have the biggest space for all of the equipment, which is why everyone in our flight comes here, from heavies to work on rafts, to rescue and fighters, to work on chutes and survival kits,” said Staff Sgt. Kelsey Wilson, 18th OSS AFE NCO in charge. “The services we provide are like insurance for the aircrews.”
For the 44th Fighter Squadron AFE shop, coverage focuses on life support.
“Our main job is to provide life support for the pilot,” said Staff Sgt. Shaun Kileleman, 44th FS AFE assistant NCO in charge. “The [F-15 Eagle] and its capabilities can take a toll on the human body. To combat this, we provide pilots with items such as oxygen masks to keep them breathing and anti-gravity suits to keep them from passing out.”
The AFE shop also maintains egress and survival equipment.
“Another important part of our job is to inspect, pack and repair parachutes if necessary,” Kileleman said. “We also ensure the ejection seats are up to standards and equipped with all the necessary tools pilots would need to survive.”
During the inspection process, Airmen check for discrepancies and conduct any preventative maintenance needed.
“Equipment is inspected on a 30-day cycle, but there are still checks we have to do daily,” added Tech. Sgt. Andrew Johnson, 44th FS AFE NCOIC. “We have to make sure all of the equipment is serviceable and ready to go at a moment’s notice.”
In a career field where not only the success of the mission hangs in the balance, but life itself, thoroughness and knowledge play an important role.
“Attention to detail is big in our career field; the smallest thing could have a big effect in the outcome of a mission,” Kileleman said. “If we forget to tighten a screw or if we don’t inspect a G-suit properly, there could be dire consequences.”
Despite having a key role to play in the mission, AFE Airmen still strive to provide excellent customer service.
“The pilots are our customer and we do a lot to support them, whether it’s an issue with their helmet or trouble shooting equipment, we strive to provide them with the best service,” Johnson said proudly. “At the end of the day, we are here for the aircrew and their life is our priority.”