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    Readiness puts Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen ahead of the curve

    During a global pandemic filled with teleworking and social distancing, many aircraft sit idly on the flight line.

    Nevertheless, this team of Airmen goes to work and continues to ensure the equipment for aircrews are inspected and ready to go at a moment's notice.

    The 143d Airlift Wing’s Aircrew Flight Equipment (AFE) shop, at Quonset Air National Guard Base, Rhode Island, consists of six full-time technicians and four drill status guardsmen.

    During this time, the full-time staff has been split into two rotating shifts working in the shop and teleworking. The idea is to have minimal contact so that if anything were to happen, the shop would still be able to run effectively.

    The AFE’s main priority is to ensure that all flight and safety equipment is operationally ready and able for utilization during normal operations and emergency situations. The AFE also maintain, test, and repair flight helmets, oxygen masks, parachutes, survival kits, and other essentials.

    At the helm of the shop is Senior Master Sgt. Jethro Byron. As a supervisor, his role is to oversee the shop and ensure that his team is on the right track. For him, the most difficult part of all this is balancing his role as a supervisor and supporting a family at home with three school-aged children.

    “My wife is a full-time nurse in Providence, and has not had much time off," said Byron. "With her not being available, it falls on me to keep up with my work requirements while also keeping the kids on task with their virtual-learning schoolwork.”

    In addition to the full-time staff doing a lot of hands-on work in the shop, two drill status guardsmen volunteered to serve on state active duty making face masks, said Byron.

    Master Sgt. Gary Wieslequist and Staff Sgt. Brittany Jordan, both assigned to the AFE shop, produced approximately 40 masks each per week, which they sewed from their homes, said Byron. These masks were given to the 143d Medical Group and then distributed to other guardsmen from there.

    Though his team may have a new order of day-to-day operations as a result of the pandemic, they continue to remain fully trained and ready to execute their primary AFE mission.

    The skillset of the sewing also contributed to the need for handmade masks to distribute. The AFE combines these skills to put them ahead of the curve and at a maximum level of preparedness for situations such as this.
    Also of note, the AFE career field specializes in chemical, biological, and anti-virus type work. For this reason, the COVID-19 outbreak was something that their training has prepared them for.

    “The fact that we work on oxygen masks, we deal with blood pathogens and the possibility of viruses, we are used to wearing Personal Protective Equipment," said Byron. "We are constantly wearing gloves in this career field and disinfecting equipment routinely, so this isn’t a new thing for us.”

    On the other side of the shop, Tech. Sgt. Christopher Pacheco, an AFE technician, who was busy at work inspecting a parachute and getting ready for an annual inspection. Pacheco’s role in the shop is to keep the equipment safe and ready to be deployed if necessary.

    “Once a year we have to inspect all of the components of each parachute and re-pack them, said Pacheco. "Depending on the shelf life of the components, some of the actual packs and the harnesses are about to expire so we have to rebuild them.”

    The AFE shop supports mission readiness and emergency preparedness, both of which are crucial in these times. The team is extensively trained on the proper use of life-saving equipment and is fully expected to maintain the safety of the aircraft.

    While the National Guard does its part to support the COVID-19 response, the RIANG also continues to maintain its aircraft. That is where AFE strongly comes into play. Not only is their team providing manpower and resources to the COVID-19 response, but they are also ensuring that day-to-day operations run smoothly.

    “Keeping readiness at the highest level possible is the AFE team’s priority at all times," said Byron. "The COVID-19 breakout hasn’t really changed that for us."

    From equipment to survival training, AFE has been busier than ever and getting a chance to expand upon their skills. The outbreak has given them a new challenge when it comes to training and maintaining, but it has not slowed them down.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 04.18.2020
    Date Posted: 04.21.2020 16:53
    Story ID: 367771
    Location: CRANSTON , RI, US 

    Web Views: 2
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