With the new C-130J Super Hercules coming to Yokota Air Base, the 374th Operations Support Squadrons Aircrew Flight Equipment Flight has been preparing for their arrival.
The AFE flight is responsible for all the flight crews and passengers’ survival and life support equipment on an aircraft. From oxygen masks, helmets, life-rafts and parachutes the AFE flight ensures that all the equipment functions properly so the aircrew can accomplish their mission; and if the worst should happen, the aircrew will have the necessary equipment to get them through.
The transition from the old H-model to the new J-model C-130s has given the AFE flight a chance to show their capabilities to overcome the many challenges that come with the airframe switch.
According to Master Sgt. Brock A. Atchley, 374 OSS AFE Flight NCO in charge, each C-130J Super Hercules has around 1,500 life support and survival items. When the old H-models leave they must be fully equipped and ready for their next home. This means coordinating with the gaining unit whether it’s a national guard or reserve base on what requirements they need for each aircraft.
Yokota will be getting 14 new C-130J Super Hercules, eight brand-new form the factory and six coming from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas. The six new J-models that will be arriving from Dyess, will be equipped with all the necessary equipment as well; but that does not mean the AFE flight is free from work.
Once the Dyess C-130J Super Hercules arrive at Yokota the AFE flight will unload all the life-support and survival equipment, inventory, disassemble, inspect, reassemble and re-pack all the equipment onto the aircraft to ensure that everything is ready for the specific Pacific Air Force mission.
While the eight brand-new J-models coming from the factory will be ready for almost any mission, the 1,500 required items will still have to be acquired and placed onto the aircraft at Yokota by the AFE flight.
“We don’t just get a new parachute straight from the manufacturer and put it on the plane,” Atchley said. “We get a canopy, then a harness, then the other bits and pieces that go into it; and then put it all together and ensure it’s functional.”
For all the parachutes needed for one aircraft it may take up to a month to get all the necessary parts, build it and ensure it functions correctly.
“We have to prepare over nine months in advance in order for us to get everything on time in order to execute the mission,” said Atchley.
The challenge of overcoming the time frame of shipping all the necessary equipment, constructing items and inspecting them to be ready once the aircraft arrives has taken a lot of planning.
Tech. Sgt. Shakuntala M. Willis, 374 OSS AFE Flight NCOIC of the C-130J transition, has been tasked to lead a team to ensure that all the equipment is ready once the new aircraft come in. The preparation started in May 2016, and has encountered many challenges along the way.
“Being overseas does not make the job any easier between ordering, waiting on parts to ship and customs,” said Willis. “It makes it difficult to project our timeline when the ordering is so different for every item.”
While it is a lot of work for the AFE flight to get all new equipment for the new aircraft, they are excited about the future.
“The new quick-dawn mask is safer and easier for the aircrew to use than the old ones,” said Staff Sgt. William H. Chapmon, 374th OSS AFE flight NCOIC of chemical defense. “The old quick-dawn masks took six seconds to put on while the new ones take two seconds.”
With Yokota getting new equipment on all new aircraft, Atchley sees this transition as a chance for Yokota to set a new standard for the highest quality.
“This is our chance to have a clean slate on equipment that has historically been a bit aged here,” said Atchley. “This is really a great way for us to reset the bench-mark for the equipment that goes on these C-130’s”
From new equipment, to carefully crafted stenciling on containers; all the little touches the AFE flight members can implement to hit the highest of standards is being done.
The AFE flight is accomplishing vital work and preparation for the new C-130J Super Hercules; ensuring the new birds have everything they need to accomplish the various missions in their new Pacific home.