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Life support section works to keep pilots safe

Capt. Lee Dewald, 4th Fighter Squadron pilot, gets an individual fit for his new helmet to fly with the CCIP jets. Senior Airman Mark Fredrickson pencils in around the edges to accurately measure where the visor should be shaved off in order to get a perfict fit.

Capt. Lee Dewald, 4th Fighter Squadron pilot, gets an individual fit for his new helmet to fly with the CCIP jets. Senior Airman Mark Fredrickson pencils in around the edges to accurately measure where the visor should be shaved off in order to get a perfict fit.

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah -- When is it typical for one person to run his snack bar bill up to $67 dollars for the month? 

"It is normal for me when we have an inspection like this," said Airman 1st Class Gregory Lentz, 388th Life Support Section, when discussing Air Combat Command's recent visit to the life support sections Jan. 22 - 25.

Every two years, the life support sections receive a visit for assessments similar to that of Hill Air Force Base's October 2005 Operation Readiness Inspection. For the squadrons, this inspection meant 10-12 hour days, six days a week for more than half a year.

"The preparations for this inspection were very extensive," said Master Sgt. Matthew Freeman, 388th Life Support superintendent.

Inspectors from Langley Air Force Base, Va., visited the wing to check all life support equipment and programs and ensure all the technicians know how to properly inspect for defaults. They also looked at the life support Airmen's job training and technical orders, a step-by-step process of how to complete a task.

The life support squadrons here ensure all aircrew members receive the best equipment for flights and emergency situations. They are tasked with the critical job of providing pilots a proper understanding of how to survive after an ejection. Pilots go through various types of training with life support every couple of years in order to learn survivability.

Sergeant Freeman had only been with the 388th Fighter Wing about five months when he visited four squadrons and found more than 150 discrepancies. But as of this January, that has changed.

"All but three of these discrepancies have been cleared, and those are the items that take a few months to fix," said Sergeant Freeman.

A few members of the 4th Fighter Squadron took advantage of the long hours by turning training into a game-filled, learning environment. Airman Lentz created a "jeopardy game" on the computer so the Airmen in the life support section could play. The game is meant to further train life support technicians by testing them on facts and inspection criteria of equipment.

"The whole shop participated in this, and the inspectors even took some of our guides back with them to implement them Air Force wide," said Senior Airman Mark Fredrickson, 4 FS life support technician.

Airman Fredrickson spent two months developing a guide for the Joint Helmet Mounting Cuing System. The JHMCS (Helmet, Display Unit and Visor), is fitted to pilots for the Common Configuration Implementation Program jets.

"The guide is like a 'JHMCS for dummies,'" he said. "It is an easy way to teach the technicians how to perform the new duties with the new helmets."

Airman Fredrickson also explained this program was taken back with the inspectors to be implemented for other Air Force bases in ACC.

"The reactions of the inspectors were very positive," said Sergeant Freeman. "They were surprised at the vast improvements in the program over the past six months. Two of the three inspectors have been to the 388 FW in the past year and were very pleased at the improvements in the equipment, morale and the program in general.

"The new regime in life support across the wing is a highly-motivated, dedicated and proud batch of individuals that I am lucky to serve with," said Sergeant Freeman. "Although undermanned and over-tasked, these troops continue to generate top-notch equipment with a positive attitude, keeping the pilots in the 388 FW safe."