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Every Airman is mission essential: Aircrew Flight Equipment

Staff Sgt. Andrea Mulgado, 9th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment technician, conducts a routine inspection on a flight helmet Jan. 7, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Beale’s Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians ensure T-38 Talon pilots are equipped with well-maintained and serviceable flight-gear. The T-38 is primarily used by the Air Education and Training Command as a training aircraft, but at Beale it is used as a familiarization aircraft when pilots are not flying the U-2 Dragon Lady. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan)

Staff Sgt. Andrea Mulgado, 9th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment technician, conducts a routine inspection on a flight helmet Jan. 7, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Beale’s Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians ensure T-38 Talon pilots are equipped with well-maintained and serviceable flight-gear. The T-38 is primarily used by the Air Education and Training Command as a training aircraft, but at Beale it is used as a familiarization aircraft when pilots are not flying the U-2 Dragon Lady. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan)

A T-38 Talon taxis to the runway Jan. 7, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. The T-38 is primarily used by the Air Education and Training Command as a training aircraft, but at Beale it is used as a familiarization aircraft when pilots are not flying the U-2 Dragon Lady. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan)

A T-38 Talon taxis to the runway Jan. 7, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. The T-38 is primarily used by the Air Education and Training Command as a training aircraft, but at Beale it is used as a familiarization aircraft when pilots are not flying the U-2 Dragon Lady. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan)

Senior Airman Joseph Tharp, 9th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment technician, patches a damaged area on a flight helmet Jan. 7, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Beale’s Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians ensure T-38 Talon pilots are equipped with well-maintained and serviceable flight-gear. The T-38 is primarily used by the Air Education and Training Command as a training aircraft, but at Beale it is used as a familiarization aircraft when pilots are not flying the U-2 Dragon Lady. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan)

Senior Airman Joseph Tharp, 9th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment technician, patches a damaged area on a flight helmet Jan. 7, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Beale’s Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians ensure T-38 Talon pilots are equipped with well-maintained and serviceable flight-gear. The T-38 is primarily used by the Air Education and Training Command as a training aircraft, but at Beale it is used as a familiarization aircraft when pilots are not flying the U-2 Dragon Lady. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan)

Senior Airman Sarah Phillips, 9th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment technician, repairs a parachute Jan. 7, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Beale’s Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians ensure T-38 Talon pilots are equipped with well-maintained and serviceable flight-gear. The T-38 is primarily used by the Air Education and Training Command as a training aircraft, but at Beale it is used as a familiarization aircraft when pilots are not flying the U-2 Dragon Lady. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan)

Senior Airman Sarah Phillips, 9th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment technician, repairs a parachute Jan. 7, 2016, at Beale Air Force Base, California. Beale’s Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians ensure T-38 Talon pilots are equipped with well-maintained and serviceable flight-gear. The T-38 is primarily used by the Air Education and Training Command as a training aircraft, but at Beale it is used as a familiarization aircraft when pilots are not flying the U-2 Dragon Lady. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ramon A. Adelan)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, California -- As the day begins for training sorties to take off, Airmen are already preparing for the mission. Like clockwork, Airmen are checking and re-checking equipment and supplying pilots with the necessities to fly.

Every Airman plays an essential role in mission success, including those who are behind the scenes. Airmen assigned to the 9th Operational Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment at Beale Air Force Base, California, ensure T-38 Talon pilots are equipped with well-maintained and serviceable flight gear.

"Our goal and mission is to protect and preserve the aircrew's life," said Staff Sgt. Tyler Woodwick, 9th Operations Support Squadron AFE craftsman. "We make sure equipment is working and intact."

A T-38 pilot is equipped with a helmet, G-suit, parachute, and survival kit. The kit includes items such as medical and survival modules, life raft, flares, and food.

"Every item the pilots have are essential, its functionality could mean life or death," said Senior Airman Allison Van Matre 9th OSS AFE journeyman. "We can't let these Airmen or their families down, so we go through pre- and post-flight, daily and weekly inspections of the equipment."

The equipment technicians follow technical orders, produced by the manufacturer and higher headquarters, to conduct inspections. Technical orders explain the required way to inspect or repair a piece of equipment. Depending on the equipment there could be hundreds of tasks per technical order.

"We inspect all surfaces of each piece of gear they have," Woodwick said. "We check every part of the helmets, from the seals to the visor. We make sure there aren't any holes, tears or broken seams in their parachutes and G-suits."

The T-38 is primarily used by the Air Education and Training Command as a training aircraft, but here at Beale it is used as a familiarization aircraft when pilots are not flying the U-2 Dragon Lady.

According to Woodwick, this career field is critical to the lives of the pilots who put their trust in the equipment.

"Our tasks aren't something you can halfway complete; we thoroughly check every piece down to the smallest stitch," Van Matre said. "The pilots rely heavily on us; they put their life in our hands and our equipment."