Stitching pride into the mission

By Staff Sgt. Justin Norton 302nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

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Though their chief responsibility is ensuring aircrew safety, the Reserve Citizen Airmen at the 302nd Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment shop go beyond that scope by using a skill set some might not associate with a military organization – sewing.

On top of being responsible for the maintenance, inspection and repair of more than 1,500 pieces of life-saving equipment and training aircrew, they go the extra mile with customer service.

Employing sewing skills developed from parachute repair and maintenance, the AFE technicians outfitted each C-130 Hercules aircraft here with a variety of bags and pouches they made by hand to save aircrew, particularly loadmasters, time and help keep equipment organized. They also addressed a maintenance concern by installing a durable, cut-resistant material that covers a section of the insulation wall, which is otherwise frequently cut or torn and requires regular repair, in every 302nd AW C-130. Neither of these extra efforts are Air Force requirements.

“This is just taking ownership and pride in the unit,” said Senior Master Sgt. William Kellums, the 302nd OSS AFE superintendent, who came up with the idea back in 2000 when he came to the unit as an airman. “We want to make sure that the people working on the planes are taken care of. If we can make things easier and quicker for them then we’re all about it. This is about teamwork and trying to help our other squadrons out.”

Working alongside aircrew and maintenance quality assurance, Kellums developed a sorting system using color-coded equipment bags he made. Using this system helps loadmasters quickly identify where to find equipment during and after flying missions.

“It used to be a lot more work on our part,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Flight, the 731st Airlift Squadron loadmaster superintendent. “The real impact we feel is when we’re deployed. It’s nice to have neat and tidy inventoried equipment when we get over there. It makes it easier on us to accommodate the deployed missions.”

To make it easier to keep track of what goes where as aircraft are taken apart during major maintenance efforts, AFE technicians also embroider aircraft serial numbers onto some of the equipment they make. Examples of this are maintenance binders and passenger-seating storage bags.

Maintaining and repairing these customizations takes about 140 hours of work per year across all aircraft, but the benefits gained from the extra effort are worth it, said Kellums.

"The Airmen out at AFE are amazing," said Flight. "They've given us the best support we could ever ask for and then some. They're all superstars out there. They really are the best."


Editor's note: The original story can be viewed on the 302nd Airlift Wing website.