NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. --
A pilot’s final option in the case of an emergency is to eject. The split second following that ejection and the canopy flying off is the difference between life and death. The pilot is launched out of the cockpit at more than 10 times their own weight and attention to detail is all that separates survival from disaster.
In those moments, aircrew flight equipment (AFE) Airmen assigned to the 57th Weapons Support Squadron (WPSS) have already ensured the pilots, aircrew and passengers have everything they need to survive while flying in the aircraft and in worst-case scenarios.
These AFE Airmen take on an even bigger role because they are assigned under the U.S. Air Force Weapons School to support the year-round curriculum of approximately 100 Weapons Officers and enlisted specialists graduates every six months.
“If a pilot has a problem at 30,000 feet, that’s when our job matters the most,” said Tech Sgt. Claudiu Golosie, 57th WPSS NCO in charge of AFE. “Pilots and aircrew can’t pull off to the side of the road and ask AAA for help. They rely on us to do our job.”
AFE specialists are responsible for ensuring all flight and safety equipment is in working order to make sure Airmen have the supplies necessary to complete the mission.
“My career field is important due to the simple fact that I can’t have a bad day,” said Staff Sgt. Derwin Ford, 57th WPSS AFE specialist. “My gear needs to work each and every time. If the equipment fails, there is a scary chance of a life being lost.”
AFE is responsible for all that encompasses aircrews flight equipment.
“AFE entails anything from routine equipment maintenance, the build-up and repair of helmets, oxygen masks, anti-gravity suits, gloves, harnesses, parachutes and night vision goggles,” said Ford.
AFE Airmen at the Weapons School not only provide all the essential gear for pilots, aircrew and students stationed here, but they also support the different tenant units of the Weapons School that come to Nellis for WSINT.
“Every airframe in the Air Forces inventory is typically used in Weapons School Integration (WSINT),” said Ford.
The Weapons School is made up of 19 different weapons squadrons with seven of the squadrons being tenant units stationed at different bases around the U.S.
“We have to specialize in all airframes,” said Golosie. “It’s a lot more than just the average AFE shop. It’s one of the most demanding shops I’ve been to in the past 15 years.”
During WSINT, which is a series of complex, large-force employment missions that serve as the capstone portion of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, sortie volume increases significantly producing a heavier demand for AFE Airmen expertise.
“On top of the daily workload, we have to prepare for double and sometimes triple the number of flying sorties that we are accustomed to during WSINT,” said Ford. “We cover an 18-hour flying window to support 19 different mission design series.”
AFE is one of the significant factors to guaranteeing graduates return to the field to serve as tactical experts and leaders to control and exploit air, space and cyber.
“Every Airmen here is doing their best,” said Golosie. “I’m not making the mission happen, it’s my Airmen who make the mission happen. I am very appreciative of every single one of them.”
The Weapons School is able to teach and push out the newest weapons instructors to the Air Force thanks to the AFE Airmen at the 57th WPSS. The hard work and dedication of those Airmen is represented in each and every graduate of the Weapons School.