NCO lifeline for aircrew flight equipment

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Shane Dunaway
  • 36th Wing Public Affairs
Before the pilots leave the ground here at Andersen, they gear up in their G-suits, helmets, parachutes and other accessories that enable them to put their feet back on the ground in an emergency situation.

Staff Sgt. Christopher Kitts, 36th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment noncommissioned officer in charge, plays a pivotal role in ensuring all aircrew flight equipment here is capable of performing its function - to help save lives.

The aircrew flight equipment career field is the byproduct of a merger between the life support and survival equipment career fields. Sergeant Kitts, formerly in the life support trade, maintains all jump equipment used by the 36th Contingency Response Group for their jump training.

In a recent jump training session held by the 36th CRG, Sergeant Kitts said he packed and inspected approximately 80 parachutes over a nine-day period of time. Each jumper was equipped with a main chute and a chest reserve chute. The main chutes can take 45 minutes or longer to pack, depending on the experience level of the rigger, or person who packs the chute.

In addition to caring for the 36th CRG's equipment, Sergeant Kitts maintains the equipment for six aircrew members permanently assigned here.

"Sergeant Kitts does an outstanding job maintaining and preparing our flight equipment," said Major Mark Mongillo, 36th Operations Support Squadron director of operations. "His number one concern is our safety and he goes above and beyond in ensuring our equipment is ready to go. In [my] 15 years of flying, he is by far the best AFE technician I have had the pleasure to work with."

As the only aircrew flight equipment team member permanently assigned here, he supports a team of more than half a dozen aircrew flight equipment personnel supporting more than 70 aircrew members deployed from Barksdale AFB, La.

"Sergeant Kitts ensures the deployed [aircrew flight equipment] units coming in have facilities, test equipment and standard parts and pieces available to them so we're not shipping thousands of pounds of extra [equipment] overseas when we can already have it set up and ready here," said Master Sgt. Jeffrey Jamison, 36th OSS aircrew flight equipment superintendent.

In all, Sergeant Kitts manages more than 560 equipment assets for flyers, including helmets, masks, harnesses, G-suits, survivals vests and various types of parachutes. Each piece of equipment has a different standard for inspection, but pilots perform pre- and post-flight inspections on all their gear before returning it.

Of all the gear, parachutes have the most stringent inspection standards and are inspected by the aircrew flight equipment team after every use. Once the chutes are inspected for frayed or split lines and tears or rip in the canopies, they are repacked and redistributed.

Though it might seem stressful knowing a life hangs in the balance, Sergeant Kitts embraces his role in aircrew flight equipment and he enjoys seeing the fruit of his labor firsthand, especially during CRG jumps.

"When you actually pack these up and you see it work [when they jump], you know you just saved a life," Sergeant Kitts said.