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There is no flight sAFEty without AFE

A man laces up a flight suit

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Karcher, 325th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment lead trainer, prepares a g-suit for fitting at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 21, 2021. The AFE flight is responsible for ensuring all flight equipment, including helmets, g-suits, life preservers and other items, are in proper working order and maintained for operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price)

A man kneels in a room

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Ryan Karcher, 325th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment lead trainer, fits an Airman for a g-suit at Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, July 21, 2021. AFE specialists ensure flight equipment is properly fitted to an Airman for safety during flight. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tiffany Price)

NAVAL AIR STATION KEY WEST, Fla --

The 325th Operations Support Squadron’s aircrew flight equipment unit mobilized Airmen to Naval Air Station Key West, Florida, in support of the F-22 Formal Training Unit’s capstone in July, where student pilots participated in defensive and offensive dissimilar air combat training.

Tech. Sgt. Ryan Karcher has been a part of the 325th OSS AFE unit since 2014. Karcher serves as the noncommissioned officer in charge of the parachute shop, where parachutes, seat kits and survival kits for the F-22 Raptors are prepared and maintained.

“Tech. Sgt. Karcher embodies the Air Force’s core values every day,” said Capt. “Easy” McInturff, 325th OSS AFE flight commander. “He faces every challenge with a positive perspective and excellent attitude. He thrives in his job, developing Airmen into skilled AFE craftsmen while upholding a high standard in the shop.”

The 325th OSS is Karcher’s fourth assignment. He has worked with multiple airframes including the C-17 Globemaster III, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the T-38 Talon and the F-22 Raptor. With seven years of experience, he was confident in his ability to lead a team down to NAS Key West for the F-22 FTU’s capstone.

“Our top priority during the TDY was to not only ensure the safety of the pilots, but also [familiarization flyers] on the T-38 Talon,” said Karcher. “One of my main duties focused on educating these Airmen on the theory of operation for the gear they would be utilizing during their flight.”

Airmen receive familiarization flights to help them better understand the rigors of flight, and the mission they support from the ground. It’s often a once in-a-lifetime opportunity where they suit up and fly backseat for a mission.

Karcher explained AFE has given him the opportunity to work with four different airframes and travel the world.

“I really do enjoy this career field,” said Karcher. “My favorite part about being AFE is getting to work alongside the pilots every day and work around the best fighter aircraft in the world.”

The 325th Fighter Wing’s mission is to train F-22 pilots to project unrivaled combat airpower, and maintain air dominance. AFE ensures the pilots can complete the mission without worrying about their gear.

“Flight gear is critical to pilot survivability in the high G, high altitude environment of air-to-air combat training missions,” said McInturff. “Tech. Sgt. Karcher’s expertise, dedication and attention to detail in his job is the type of contribution that makes large force exercises like this a success.”