Last to let you down: Aircrew flight equipment team supports AF12

  • Published
  • By Gabriel J. Myers
  • Anatolian Falcon 2012 Public Affairs
There is a seemingly silent group of Airmen here who work diligently to support Exercise Anatolian Falcon 2012 hoping their work and attention to detail goes unnoticed until the very last mission has made it home.

The Airmen are from the 52nd Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment shop, and they are charged with the duty of maintaining the gear of every pilot and backseater who fly an AF12 mission.

"We have a great sense of pride in what we do," said Staff Sgt. Mark Belcher, 52nd OSS. "We have to trust in ourselves and each other to do the job right knowing that our pilots lives may depend on our gear doing what's it was designed to do."

The flight equipment these Airmen maintain could be the difference between life and death. Each piece of equipment has a specific function designed to ensure the safety and survivability of pilots in numerous environments. With more than 400 sorties planned for AF12, the team here in Konya will be very busy.

"It's great to be here in Turkey and great to be a part of the AF12 team," Belcher said. "We know the pilots depend on us and the gear we maintain. Ensuring we provide the best product to them for their sorties is our top priority; we always want to be the last to let you down."

Certain pieces of equipment are used every flight -- such as the helmet, mask, harness and anti-g suit -- while other equipment items such as the parachute, survival kit, anti-exposure suit and life preservers are all items that would be used in an ejection scenario, designed to keep the pilot alive until rescue.

A keen attention to detail ensures the gear functions properly. Every inch of the equipment is checked for holes, cuts scratches, tears, rust, corrosion and overall integrity. In addition to the rigorous visual inspection, every item is then put through a functional test and checked for quality assurance before being deemed worthy for use.

"It's really important we do our job well," Belcher said. "We don't want the pilot to have to even think about his gear but still have confidence it will work every time. Just knowing we are making a difference and a part of the team means everything."

In April 2011, Airman 1st Class Adryan Elszy was reaffirmed of just how important his job was when an A-10 from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, crashed and the pilot safely ejected. Elszy packed and installed the parachute into the ejection seat of that aircraft.

"My first thought when I heard about the crash was about the pilot and was he alive," Elszy said. "When I was told he survived and I had packed his parachute, I was incredibly happy and relieved. It really hit home the importance of what we do every day."