EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
Soaring above the last frontier, pilots rely on a small but important maintenance section to provide their last line of defense in the sky.
The Airmen assigned to the 354th Maintenance Squadron Aircrew Egress Systems section carry the responsibility of ensuring a pilot’s safe ejection in the event of an air emergency through precision, teamwork, and leadership.
“The goal of egress is to do everything to perfection,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Romano, 354th MXS Aircrew Egress Systems craftsman. “Because if we don’t do it to perfection, someone can die.”
In addition to performing maintenance on ejection systems, Egress Airmen perform numerous tasks such as egress finals, pulling ejection seats out of aircraft, and working both on the flightline and in their backshop. The amount of maintenance performed is a feat accomplished through teamwork.
“We all pull all our weight,” added Airman 1st Class David Sanchez, 354th MXS Aircrew Egress Systems journeyman. “We all do what we have to do to keep the show running.”
During the winter, making it to the flightline can prove troublesome. The ice build up on aircraft and snow accumulation on the flightline presents unique obstacles for Egress Airmen.
“Certain pieces of our equipment are easier to handle in the summertime, in the winter we have to carefully move items through snow and some really cold weather,” said Sanchez. “It does make it a little bit harder but it hasn’t stopped us.”
With multiple squadrons of aircraft on Eielson at any given time, it is critical for the non-commissioned officers and Airmen to work together to ensure all the maintenance required is performed accurately and in a timely manner.
“NCOs trust the Airmen to get 85% of the work accomplished and the NCOs will make sure everything is compliant,” said Romano. “[Airmen] do the bulk of the maintenance so we rely on them.”
It’s the relationship between NCOs and Airmen that allows for an accomplished mission. The support from Airman to Airman echoes in the egress section louder than the jets on the flightline.
“I just try to motivate them to do their best in every single aspect of being an Airman,” said Romano. “Where do you see yourself? What do you want out of this career field? Those are the questions that I always ask them.”
In a field where the job can feel monotonous at times, it’s essential to make sure the objective isn’t lost through the amount of maintenance performed; it starts and ends with small but important reminders about what the job does for the mission.
“Even though we’re a small piece of the puzzle,” said Romano. “We still matter and our job really matters when the pilot needs us most.”