Behind the scenes with Dover AFE
By Airman 1st Class Zoe M. Wockenfuss, 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 29, 2018
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- Most people see an Airman with a smiling face seated behind a four-by-five foot counter, but what happens behind closed doors is a much different scene. The area is filled with parachutes, inflatable life preservers, oxygen masks, night vision goggles, chemical gear and escape slides; all lifesaving gear that gets inspected and repaired by Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians.
“To me, Aircrew Flight Equipment is like an insurance policy for aircrew members,” said Tech. Sgt. Juan Arrieta, 436th Operation Support Squadron AFE NCO in charge of logistics. “While our equipment isn't necessarily utilized on a daily basis, in the event that it needs to be used, the equipment needs to work flawlessly every time.”
From classroom training for aircrew members to inspecting and preparing the equipment that could save their lives, AFE team members do it all. AFE technicians train more than 600 active duty and reserve aircrew members on how to properly use the equipment issued to them. The Team Dover AFE technicians inspect, clean and repair the gear to ensure it can perform its job in a moment’s notice.
“Without our equipment, the mission doesn’t begin,” said Airman 1st Class Nathan Gooch, 436th OSS AFE journeyman. “Jets will not take off without the addition of our life support equipment on board.”
The equipment that is provided depends on what aircraft the base operates. The equipment issued to aircrews can be the difference between life and death during an emergency.
“AFE's purpose is to protect and sustain human life during flight operations and enhance aircrew effectiveness,” said Capt. Ryan Nichol, 436th OSS AFE flight commander. “Everything an AFE technician touches directly impacts the survivability of aircrew and passengers.”
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes in order for aircraft to take off, and AFE is a big part of that. They work long, tedious hours on the equipment that is used for the survival of aircrew members. The technicians go through about 11 weeks of training in order to be qualified to perform their jobs.
“We take pride in the blind trust that aircrews have in us, that our equipment will operate when they need it the most,” Nichol said.
The equipment issued from AFE helps ensure the safety and success of each mission. AFE technicians are trusted with extremely important and expensive gear. A slow day at the AFE office is a good sign, because it means that the mission was completed successfully and without any danger to the crew.
“Without AFE, C5’s and C17’s here at Dover, along with all aircraft across the globe would be without life support equipment,” said Gooch. “Mission safety is not something that can be guaranteed, but our career field was established so that the building blocks are in place should the worst happen and that our aircrew are properly equipped to handle extreme situations.”
The 436th OSS AFE flight was recognized as the 2018 first quarter 436th Airlift Wing Team of the Quarter and is currently Air Mobility Command’s AFE large program of the year. They prepare Team Dover’s aircrew members mentally and physically for any survival emergency that could come their way.