Airman enhances aircrew readiness in worst-case scenarios

  • Published
  • By Airman First Class Andrew Kobialka
  • 366th FW/PA

F-15E Strike Eagles are a feared weapon, capable speeding past mach 2.5, day or night, in any weather, armed with a versatile arsenal of weaponry. The aircrew of an F-15E will likely win any fight put in their way. But in the tragic event that they must eject, Airman First Class Zack Day ensures the aircrew are ready to fight and survive their way home.

Day, a 366th Operation Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment (AFE) apprentice, puts together ACES II survival kits to embolden aircrew and enhance tactical readiness in combative and emergency situations. 

“Everything in the kit has a purpose,” Day said. “And if aircrew have to eject from their jet, they are trusting that I have done my job.”

Each survival kit is outfitted with flares, a sidewinder flashlight, medical modules, survival modules, life raft and GUA-5A aircrew self-defense weapon (ASDW) among other tools.

“Survival kits are there to make sure our aircrew have everything they need should a bad day occur,” said Master Sgt. Mark Caron, 366th OSS AFE quality assurance.

Trust between AFE and aircrew play a vital role in enhancing readiness by assuring the aircrew are taken care of in an emergency situation, Day explained. This assurance allows aircrew members to to be less distracted and increase their mental fortitude and focus while completing their mission.

“Having all their gear prepared perfectly is important to me,” Day said. “They have never had a reason to doubt us, and I won’t give them one.” 

Caron explained that Day is always ready to work harder and improve. If he doesn’t like the work he has done, he takes the initiative to redo it and get it checked for quality assurance. 

AFE’s attention to detail may indirectly boost aircrew members performance, but in the case of an emergency, it directly boosts their chance of survival.

The ACES II survival kit has recently changed to include the GAU-5A. The GAU-5A is a lightweight, semi-automatic carbine that is easily assembled without tools. 

Having this self-defense weapon rather than a handgun greatly improves an aircrew member’s ability to survive if they are ever stranded and engaged in a fire-fight. 

However, there are a many types of emergencies that require an equally diverse set of tools. Day has them covered.

For example, Day equips aircrew with ultraviolet flashlights to signal for rescue without giving their position away to the enemy and self-inflating life rafts to save aircrew stranded at sea.

But all the fancy gadgets in the world mean nothing if they are not easily accessible or the weight is too cumbersome. 

“The entire pack is under 40 pounds and arranged in a specific way,” Day said. 

Imagine ejecting from a fighter jet, having the force of a parachute pull up, but at the same time a heavy pack pulling down.

 “Keeping the kit lightweight reduces the stress on the body during the ejection process, reducing the risk for injury, Day said.

Following strict packing guidelines ensures that essential tools can fit and be extracted in a timely manner, Day explained, which is vital because emergencies often require quick action.

“The preparation of ACES II survival kits require a keen attention to detail,” Day said. 

Whether the kits provide reassurance or life-saving capabilities, it is how Gunfighters take care of Airmen in every situation.

Day said he hopes his gear never needs to be used, but is confident that it will save lives if necessary.

“If we do our job well, no one dies and nobody talks about us,” Day said.