KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
In most locations, the different sections that fall under an Operations Support Squadron work together under the same roof. However, the 8th OSS is not your average squadron.
The 8th OSS aircrew flight equipment (AFE) section is broken up into two entities. One bleeds blue for the 35th Fighter Squadron “Pantons,” and the other chants “Crush ‘em” for the 80th Fighter Squadron “Juvats.” Though the pilots they support hail from different squadrons, the mission is all the same; making sure every pilot has everything they need every time they go up for a flight.
Naturally, the two shops developed a competitive relationship on which AFE is most proficient and timely in their job, which entails everything from repairing a pilot’s helmet to packing the parachute in an ejection seat.
“There’s definitely a playful rivalry between the 80th and 35th,” said Senior Airman Benjamin Ammann, 8th OSS aircrew flight equipment journeyman. “There’s a lot of squadron pride, seeing who supports their pilots the best and maintains their equipment to a higher degree, those sorts of things.”
Though they are geographically separated from each other at different fighter squadrons, that doesn’t stop them from working together when they need to. Often when one squadron goes TDY or deploys to another location, the two AFEs will become one and help each other continue the mission.
“Since we don’t work together every day, each office has formed their own way of doing things,” Ammann said. “There’s a little bit of chaos at first getting on the same page, but it’s really great working together and learning from each other. Most people do not have a lot of experience maintaining fighter pilot equipment so learning from people who have speeds up processes.”
The two groups’ work speaks for itself, with pilots praising the quality of the maintenance and condition of their equipment and the efficiency of the AFE shop.
“I constantly hear praise from the pilots about their gear,” said MSgt. Rachel Sungahid, 8 OSS aircrew flight equipment section chief. “They know every time they step into the back shop here that all of their items are squared away and ready for them, and it ultimately allows them to come in and don all of their flying equipment quickly and have full confidence that it’s maintained to the highest standard.”
Though the 35th and 80th AFEs work together only occasionally, when they do come together, the mission benefits as they become not only more efficient, but more highly competent in their shared job.
“The AFE here is the best,” said Capt. Sebastian Hill, 8th OSS aircrew flight equipment flight commander and 35th Fighter Squadron pilot. “It gives me and the other pilots peace of mind knowing that if our lives are in danger, we can rely on the equipment maintained by the best of the best.”