by Airman 1st Class Kevin Sommer Giron
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Before every flight, Airmen from the 19th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment shop load countless bags onto to the C-130. The green luggage ranges in size but serves a common purpose: To save the lives of the C-130 aircrew.
Parachutes, survival radios, oxygen masks and flotation devices are just a few of the devices stocked in the aircraft in case of an emergency.
Although crisis situations are uncommon due to the expertise of pilots and aircrew onboard, having the gear is necessary for the safety of the crew members during critical Combat Airlift missions.
As the largest AFE shop in the U.S. Air Force, their team consists of more than 60 Airmen tasked with inspecting, maintaining and distributing vital lifesaving equipment to the 19th Airlift Wing, 314th Airlift Wing and 189th Airlift Wing fleets.
Equipment specialists work 24/7 to prepare gear for all operations ranging from tactical airdrops to emergency landings.
“In the aircraft configuration section of AFE, we load up all the aircraft equipment required for any type of mission going out of Little Rock AFB,” said Tech Sgt. Jacob Long, 19th OSS AFE craftsman. “Everything they would ever use to keep themselves alive or keep themselves safe inside the aircraft.”
The shop is divided into multiple sections to maintain their vast arsenal. Airmen at each section focus on specific gear such as oxygen equipment, chemical equipment, parachutes, floatation devices and mobility kits.
Each piece of equipment is carefully and meticulously prepared down to the seams and inspected for any defects or malfunctions.
“If I were to use this equipment, I’d want it to get me home safely to my family,” said Airman 1st Class Collin Shipman, 19th OSS AFE journeyman. “That’s what I keep in mind every time I do my job, and I want the same for the crew who might have to use it one day.”
Aircrew’s lives depend on the AFE Airmen’s attention to detail and training.
Technicians are trained in each section to maintain a well-rounded skill set in preparation for any mission stateside or abroad.
“During deployments, we foster a closer relationship with each other and the aircrew because there’s usually only a handful of us there running all the equipment out to the flight line for say 70 aircrew members from just one little shop,” Long said.
Due to the intensive care performed by Team Little Rock’s AFE technicians, C-130 aircrew can face any circumstance with confidence as they deliver global Combat Airlift at a moment’s notice.