Aircrew life support: 62nd OSS Airmen keep fliers’ gear in good shape

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Captain Branin Klausman,7th Airlift Squadron, right, sits patiently April 16, 2007 as Airman 1st Class Anthony Tyler, 62nd Operations Support Squadron, performs a fit test to ensure the mask is free from defects and leaks  at the aircrew life support section warehouse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Captain Branin Klausman,7th Airlift Squadron, right, sits patiently April 16, 2007 as Airman 1st Class Anthony Tyler, 62nd Operations Support Squadron, performs a fit test to ensure the mask is free from defects and leaks at the aircrew life support section warehouse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Tech. Sgt. Anthony Scherer, 62nd Operations Support Squadron, uses a collimation bridge placed on top of a night vision test set  to ensure a pair of goggles are properly aligned and ready to be issued April 16, 2007 at the aircrew life support section warehouse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Tech. Sgt. Anthony Scherer, 62nd Operations Support Squadron, uses a collimation bridge placed on top of a night vision test set to ensure a pair of goggles are properly aligned and ready to be issued April 16, 2007 at the aircrew life support section warehouse. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airman Steven Sontag, 62nd Operations Support Squadron, removes a parachute from the aircrew life support section warehouse April 16, 2007 in preparation for inspection and pre-positioning aboard the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airman Steven Sontag, 62nd Operations Support Squadron, removes a parachute from the aircrew life support section warehouse April 16, 2007 in preparation for inspection and pre-positioning aboard the aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airmen Steven Sontag, left, and Joseph Ripper, both from the 62nd Operations Support Squadron, inspect a parachute  April 16, 2007 in the aircrew life support section warehouse prior to clearing it for pre-positioning aboard an aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Airmen Steven Sontag, left, and Joseph Ripper, both from the 62nd Operations Support Squadron, inspect a parachute April 16, 2007 in the aircrew life support section warehouse prior to clearing it for pre-positioning aboard an aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Clad in a blue smock designed to prevent lint from being tracked into sensitive equipment, aircrew life support Airman Joseph Ripper, 62nd Operations Support Squadron, carefully picks up and looks over each piece of an aircrew chemical defense ensemble.

The ensemble has all the items necessary for aircrews to fly missions in a chemical environment and includes an eye and respiratory protective mask, a communications system, a chemical flight suit, a decontamination kit and several plastic and cotton pieces that are worn underneath the suit.

Each aircrew member takes a chemical defense ensemble with him when he deploys.

The aircrew life support section stores and maintains ensembles for each aircrew member on base, said Master Sgt. Leslie Schneider, 62nd OSS.

The meticulous nature of each Airman working in the life support section of the 62nd OSS is all in the name of preventative maintenance, Sergeant Schneider said.

Since some of the products in the ensemble have expiration dates and need to be inspected at certain intervals, it's important that each ensemble is checked to make sure the contents are still in top shape, said Sergeant Schneider.

Sometimes inspecting one kit can take an entire hour, said Airman Ripper.

"Our job is to make sure each item is serviceable if they do need to use it," he said.

The section also stores the parachutes, survival vests, survival kits and body armor that are rotated in and out of each aircraft, depending on when they need to be inspected, Sergeant Schneider said.

"We've got a huge database that helps us make sure everything gets documented and tracked," he said.
In addition to keeping track of the all the survival equipment, the section also stores and maintains each aircrew member's helmet and support equipment.

Rows and rows of lockers hold nearly 1,200 helmets for active duty and Reserve aircrew members.

When aircrews are required to fly night missions, they also check out night vision goggles from life support.

Aircrew members are required to test each pair of goggles in a dimly-lit room using a special machine before flying, Sergeant Schneider said.

Aircrew life support Airmen work with each aircrew to make sure the night vision goggles are calibrated correctly to each aircrew member's vision.

"We're trying to prevent eyestrain, so they won't get headaches when they're flying," said Tech. Sgt. Anthony Scherer, 62nd OSS.

In addition to making sure the night vision goggles fit properly, the section also makes sure each aircrew member's oxygen mask fits securely and has no leaks.

Since the section is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it can accommodate each aircrew that comes through, Sergeant Schneider said. 

Aircrew life support's goal is to make it easy for aircrews to get everything and get out to the aircraft in as little time as possible, he said.