Technicians provide lifeline for aircrew

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFMCNS) -- Senior Airman Andrew Smith, 412th
Operations Support Squadron Life Support technician, helps reassemble a helmet 
and oxygen mask. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jet Fabara)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFMCNS) -- Senior Airman Andrew Smith, 412th Operations Support Squadron Life Support technician, helps reassemble a helmet and oxygen mask. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jet Fabara)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFMCNS) -- They aren't pilots, they aren't maintainers and they don't build planes, yet the fate of a pilot's survival depends on how well they do their job.

Fortunately, for aircrew members at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., the 412th Operations Support Squadron Life Support program has demonstrated a level of excellence in their job that made them win the Outstanding Air Force Materiel Command Aircrew Life Support Large Program of the Year Award for 2004.

"We have to get it right the first time," said Master Sgt. Donald Booth, 412th OSS Life Support superintendent. "Our job involves two key components to the flying mission here. We like to view what we provide as being the last chance for a pilot's survival, because there is no room for mistakes when it involves someone trying to egress out of an aircraft under emergency situations."

The two main components to life support involve overseeing survival training, like the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program, and personal equipment, said Master Sgt. Phillip Wellner, 412th OSS Life Support NCO in charge.

As a whole, Sergeant Wellner said that the unique mix of military and civilian Life Support technicians, totaling 28, are divided into three shops that oversee life support equipment throughout Edwards.

"We have one shop that oversees equipment at South Base, which includes the B-1 Lancer, B-52H Stratofortress , etc., another shop that handles the F/A-22 Raptor Life Support program and one shop that acts as the F-16 outlet," Sergeant Booth said. "In addition to this, we also support Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., the F-117 Nighthawk and the U-2 based out of Palmdale."

What each shop does from there is where the "no-room-for-error-type" mindset steps in, Sergeant Wellner said.

There are at least three sections within a shop that handle everything from parachutes to night vision goggles.

The equipment section handles what the pilots wear, from emergency oxygen equipment to G-suits and parachutes to harnesses.

The survival kit section repacks and handles survival kits for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, CV-22 Osprey, C-130 Hercules, B-52 and much more, to include life rafts for different aircraft, Sergeant Wellner said.

"On an average, we are held accountable to 24 different items that go with each survival kit," he said.

The flightline section installs and removes life support equipment from the aircraft.

"From there, we determine where it needs to go," Sergeant Wellner said. "We have to interact with all these different agencies, like medical supply, the Precision Measurement Equipment Laboratory, survival equipment and the Flight Surgeon along with the aircrew, so we can put everything back together to be used for that next mission."

At the end of the duty day, ensuring that this life support equipment is in top-notch condition and can be used to save lives is what each shop is ultimately striving for, Sergeant Booth said.