18th OSS AFE understands 'gravity' of parachutes

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Marcus Morris
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs
A pararescueman leaps out of the aircraft intent on saving a life. He pulls the cord knowing the parachute will open and allow him to land safely.

Every day people rely on lifesaving equipment to function properly with little time to sit and wonder what will happen if it fails.

The Airmen from the 18th Operations Support Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment have a pledge to pack every parachute as though they were going to jump with it themselves and to keep in mind that until people grow wings, their parachutes must be dependable.
They take this pledge so seriously that every parachute and life-support device goes through up to seven in-process inspections by multiple individuals and a final quality control inspection from a third person once the product has made it through those inspections.

"We have to make sure the equipment is properly packed and not rushed," said Master Sgt. Michael Kerin, 18th OSS AFE NCO in charge. "If a pilot ejects, they don't need another thing to worry about during an emergency."

The 18th OSS has the largest combat AFE program in the Air Force and is in charge of more than 10,000 life sustaining equipment items for 11 squadrons, an Air Combat Control Detachment and more than 80 aircrafts.

Kerin said since this base since this base isn't just a fighter base or a heavy base, it allows our Airmen a unique opportunity to train with many different parachutes, life preservers and life sustaining equipment that other bases don't have.

While the shop has more than 60 members, most of the Airmen are dispersed throughout many squadrons to instruct aircrews on the operations, care and use of their aircrew flight equipment such as helmets, oxygen masks, flotation devices and other survival gear.

"Since we work so closely with pilots, we have to be ready to deploy at a moment's notice," said Kerin. "If a pilot goes on a temporary deployment we have to temporarily deploy to support them, so we have twice the work a normal shop has."

Packing a parachute can be a day-long task and with more than 1,000 pararescue jumps happening annually, staying ahead of the workflow can be a challenge.

"Our job doesn't stop just because of a holiday," said Staff Sgt. Marques Bones, 18th OSS AFE specialist. "If we get time off, we have to make it up by working harder while not getting lax and treating it like factory work."