AL UDIED, Qatar - During a tactical operation to pick up a wounded Soldier for a hot medical evacuation, a C-130J pilot faces many stressors when trying to land the four-propeller aircraft into a pitch-black dirt runway, recently set up by Air Force combat controllers. Ensuring his equipment has good batteries and is in proper working order is the last thing on the pilot's mind before turning on his night vision goggles.
Without the work of the six airmen, who run the C-130J Aircrew Flight Equipment shop 24 hours a day at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, C-130 pilots and aircrew would not be able to support Operation Enduring Freedom with aeromedical evacuations, cargo and troop transportation and strategic airlift capabilities.
"Every airman brings something to the fight," said Tech. Sgt. Matthew Kyler, a C-130J aircrew flight equipment craftsman who is a Tonawanda, N.Y. native. "Here we provide C-130 aircrews with helmets, NVGs, radios, life rafts and survival gear which are essential to every mission. Then the aircrews provide equipment, supplies and transportation to service members throughout the U.S. Air Forces Central Command's area of responsibility."
The six AFE airmen, who are deployed from Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, N.Y., inspect, maintain and provide equipment for three to four aircrews on a daily basis before every mission and when the aircrew returns.
"It's a great feeling to know we can give aircrew peace of mind when it comes to their equipment so they have a clear mind and focus on the mission at hand," Kyler said.
Senior Airman Joy Neuenschwander, a C-130J AFE technician and a Lancaster, Pa. native said, "This is my first deployment and getting to work with aircrew on a daily basis has reassured the importance of making sure I'm doing my job to the best of my ability. The aircrews rely on us to give them properly working equipment and every time we see them, before and after a mission, they are sure to thank us. It makes me feel appreciated and it is good to know I'm part of the mission without actually being in the air with the aircrew."
According to Kyler, the main difference besides the increase in operations between his home duty station and a deployed environment is working with specialized survival radios which are handed out to every aircrew, but the mission remains the same.
"At the end of the day our main objective is to see the aircrew come back through our door and shake our hands at the end of every mission," Kyler said. "We have a great group of Airmen here who put in a great amount of effort to ensure the aircrew makes it back safely."