Photo Information

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Senior Airmen Brandy Walker (left) and Patrina Fonville examine survival equipment from a 20-person life raft kit. Some of the components include sea dye markers, radios, flares, seawater desalinators and a medical first-aid kit. They are life-support technicians with the 17th Special Operations Squadron here. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis)

Photo by Master Sgt. Val Gempis

Life-support Airmen offer keys to survival

8 Oct 2004 | Master Sgt. Michael Farris

Like James Bond being led through a showroom of new gadgets, a pilot is introduced to the latest and greatest gizmos that will get him out of a jam.

In the back corner of the 17th Special Operations Squadron here is a hi-tech superstore that supplies special operations Airmen in the Pacific with modern kits that chip in big when the chips are down.

The 17th SOS life-support section supplies and maintains life rafts, helmets, radios, night-vision devices and an assortment of other survival gear for aircrews. Aside from seat belts and life preservers, this six-person section outfits each flier with enough gear to survive a catastrophe and evade enemies.

Airman 1st Class Brian Sprouse developed his love for gadgetry while scampering through the forest near his rural West Virginia home.

“We used to make potato guns and have elaborate battles with friends and neighbors,” he said. “Now I live those childhood dreams of high-tech gizmos that help the good guys win.”

Airman Sprouse recently celebrated his first anniversary as a bluesuiter, but do not equate his rookie status with inexperience.

“I love a full flying schedule,” he said. “Every mission requires updates and changes -- tweaking and counting and making sure the crew has what they need. The days seem to race by when I’m continually hopping from one plane to the next.”

Handheld Global Positioning System receivers, combined with survival radios, allow downed crewmembers to effectively hail a taxi from a barren mountaintop 10,000 miles away. The gear provides aircrews the reassurance that, should the unthinkable occur, they have a solid Plan B and a means to survive.

The tireless team fidgets and fiddles with the gear, they check and certify, and run trials and tests. They put equipment through its paces and deliver top-notch survivability to the crews.

First-aid kits, mirrors, signaling devices and saltwater purification systems may not be as futuristic as James Bond-style jet packs or imitation fingerprints, but the 17th SOS life-support team provides the best chance for survival for Airmen here.
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