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18 OSS sAFEguards Pitch Black 2022

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Savannah Waters

More than 2,500 personnel and 100 aircraft from around the world operated from Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin and RAAF Base Tindal to conduct air operations in northern Australia, combine efforts to better integrate multilateral defense capabilities and enhance interoperability within Exercise Pitch Black 2022.

Among them, approximately 110 personnel from Pacific Air Forces participated in the biennial multi-national large force employment exercise, bolstering relationships between the U.S. and its allies and partners.

For three weeks, U.S. Air Force pilots were conducting flying operations almost every day, and thanks to key players such as the 18th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment airmen, the sky was not the limit.

“I think our job is really important and it’s critical we do it right,” said Airman 1st Class Raquez Kelly-Jones, 18th OSS aircrew flight equipment journeyman. “We put extreme care into our jobs and mistakes can happen, but we’ve been provided an environment in which we are able to train and learn from them.”

Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians manage, perform, and schedule inspections, maintenance, and adjustments of assigned AFE, Aircrew Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, associated supplies, and inventories assets.

Disassembling, assembling, inspecting, fabricating, cleaning, repairing, and packing aerospace weapon system components such as protective clothing, flotation equipment, emergency evacuation systems, and recovery and personnel parachutes are also a part of the AFE mission.

Pitch Black 22 is a model opportunity for expanding engagements with allies and partners across the globe, and demonstrates the resolve to promote security and stability throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

During the exercise, RAAF Base Darwin hosted an Open Day, which garnered thousands of attendees to visit and learn more about the multilateral exercise and each nation’s respective Air Forces. Cea and Kelly-Jones, along with other U.S. Airmen, were able to interact with and educate the local community on U.S. Air Force capabilities.

Many participants have joined Pitch Black since it began in 1981, with the goal of enhancing combat readiness and interoperability between partner nations. This year is the first year the Republic of Korea Air Force, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, and German Air Force fully participated.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Mackenzie Cea, 18th OSS aircrew flight equipment craftsman, has been stationed in Europe, the Republic of Korea and now Japan and was excited to work with all those nations at once.

“Every time I’ve worked with either partner, I’ve found them to be incredibly kind and hospitable,” Cea said. “I can see the excitement on their faces being out here in Australia and conducting missions with us. Seeing how excited our partners are to work with us makes me excited to do what we do.”

Supervisors in AFE like Cea conduct aircrew continuation training, instruct aircrews on equipment use, operation, and capabilities, and provide aircrew techniques to ensure the survivability of those who utilize AFE.