Rescue AFE Airmen become airborne qualified

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Kelly Goonan, 920th Rescue Wing Public Affairs

A group of combat search and rescue Aircrew Flight Equipment rigger Airmen, assigned to the 308th, 306th and 304th Rescue Squadrons have recently become the 920th Rescue Wing’s first AFE Airmen to become airborne qualified. 

Having this certification allows them to jump from aircraft alongside the pararescuemen, combat rescue officers and survival evasion resistance and escape specialists they build, inspect and provide rescue equipment for. 

This rescue-specific specialty within the AFE career field means that every parachute packed and provided by this team will be used during mission execution, providing zero margin for error.

These riggers are required to know and pack a variety of chutes in a variety of conditions to meet mission needs. The process is detailed and takes time to inspect and repack, along with complex quality control measures that must be performed.

Every AFE Airman plays an important role in ensuring the safety of aircrew, however, these jump-qualified Airmen take their knowledge and meticulous work one step further.

“We’re now involved in every step of the process. We’re able to gain firsthand experience and knowledge of how the packs we give our members behave in every element of the process of its use. This experience allows us to better understand the specific needs and concerns our PJs, CROs and SERE specialists have when it comes to their equipment and safety,” said Master Sgt. Brian Pajor, 308th RQS AFE noncommissioned officer in charge.

Becoming airborne qualified involves undergoing rigorous training that includes parachute jumps from aircraft and learning proper landing techniques to execute operations. Having this experience enhances the credibility and effectiveness of these AFE Airmen in their role within the rescue squadrons.

Prior to any jump mission, these riggers are now seeing the other side to the end state of their work. Not only are they receiving the tasking to prepare parachutes for jumpers, but they’re also preparing one for themselves, attending the insertion briefing and performing their own equipment checks alongside the operators; bringing a better understanding of just how short a two-hour timeline can feel like when missions are tasked. 

“Before becoming qualified to jump, we’d have a much more limited scope of understanding for what these chutes go through when used. Having AFE Airmen who have personally experienced the conditions of jump operations provides us riggers with more accurate and relevant guidance and as well as support to our team. We can better anticipate possible issues that could arise and ensure the equipment is properly maintained to meet the demands of the mission,” Pajor said.