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‘Your life is our business,’ AFE provides crucial support

Staff Sgt. Brett Schindler, 445th Operations Support Squadron, aircrew flight equipment shop NCO in charge of helmets and chemical defense gear section, ties a lanyard to secure an escape and evasion kit inside an aircrew survival backpack at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio Feb 12, 2021. The gear is used for aircrew survival during an emergency when they need to evacuate the aircraft.

Staff Sgt. Brett Schindler, 445th Operations Support Squadron, aircrew flight equipment shop NCO in charge of helmets and chemical defense gear section, ties a lanyard to secure an escape and evasion kit inside an aircrew survival backpack at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio Feb 12, 2021. The gear is used for aircrew survival during an emergency when they need to evacuate the aircraft.

Staff Sgt. Brett Schindler, 445th Operations Support Squadron, aircrew flight equipment shop NCO in charge of helmets and chemical defense gear section, ties a lanyard to secure an escape and evasion kit inside an aircrew survival backpack at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio Feb 12, 2021. The gear is used for aircrew survival during an emergency when they need to evacuate the aircraft.

Staff Sgt. Brett Schindler, 445th Operations Support Squadron, aircrew flight equipment shop NCO in charge of helmets and chemical defense gear section, ties a lanyard to secure an escape and evasion kit inside an aircrew survival backpack at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio Feb 12, 2021. The gear is used for aircrew survival during an emergency when they need to evacuate the aircraft.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio --

The 445th Operations Group has many key players in its organization to keep the wing’s mission going. The 445th Operation Support Squadron has a number of those key players, in particular, the aircrew flight equipment (AFE) shop.

Before departing on a mission, every 445th Airlift Wing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft is strategically stocked with inflatable rafts, parachutes, oxygen systems, flotation devices and more. The AFE Airmen maintain the safety and emergency equipment for aircrew and passengers departing from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

“We organize, train and equip so that the aircrew can complete their mission and return safely to their families,” said Master Sgt. Diego Cancino, aircrew flight equipment training instructor. “Every piece of equipment we touch has every ounce of our pride in it, knowing that it would potentially save someone’s life, and allow them to return safely. We pride ourselves in our support to the Ops group mission, and that pride reflects on the success of the sorties we fly.”

Cancino said everything they inspect, preposition and train on, could possibly be used on the worst day of an aircrew member’s life.

“The AFE’s specific mission statement is, ‘Your life, is our business.’ When everything has failed and an Airman is down to that most crucial moment, that oxygen mask, parachute or emergency life raft working properly, could be the difference between life and death. We take that very seriously here in AFE and have dedicated our lives to the craft,” Cancino said.

Staff Sgt. Brett “Schindy” Schindler, NCO in charge of the helmets and chem defense gear section, maintains the helmets and oxygen masks the pilots used during flights both day time and during night flights when they use the night vision goggles.

“Being able to teach new pilots how the gear works is quite nice. That way they have a small sense of what they should be looking for in case of an inflight emergency, to possibly be able to fix the problem to keep them safe,” Schindler said.

Schindler said working in AFE throughout his career at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and at other bases has brought him many memorable experiences.

“I’ve enjoyed helping to teach water and combat survival training. It’s nice to know that if they went down, I did my best to help train them on how to get out of a bad situation whether in the water or downed behind enemy lines.”

Cancino said he has come across Airmen who don’t feel like what they do for the Air Force is important, that what they do doesn’t matter, such as a simple job of wiping out an oxygen mask with a 70 percent isopropyl alcohol doesn’t have a large impact on any mission.

“Those who are in the background providing support do have a large impact on the mission. Everyone makes a difference, everyone is important. The 445th Airlift Wing mission attributes its success to the Airmen that support it, and mission support is our business,” Cancino said.

(Stacy Vaughn contributed to this story.)