HomeNewsArticle Display

OPEN AND CHUTE: Parachute and Life Support Shop's mission matter of life and death

Virginia Richey inflates a personal life preserver for C-130 and KC-135 pilots. Periodically the shop’s employees must inspect, repair and repack all survival equipment.
U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Virginia Richey inflates a personal life preserver for C-130 and KC-135 pilots. Periodically the shop’s employees must inspect, repair and repack all survival equipment. U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Mark Richey, fabric worker special skills qualifier, checks a parachute to tell when it needs to be repacked.
U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Mark Richey, fabric worker special skills qualifier, checks a parachute to tell when it needs to be repacked. U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Robert Elliott stretches out an F-15 ejection seat parachute for repacking. All chutes must be repacked periodically.
U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Robert Elliott stretches out an F-15 ejection seat parachute for repacking. All chutes must be repacked periodically. U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Diane Couch, a fabric worker in the 402nd Maintenance Wing’s Fabric and Survival shop, sews patches on uniforms.
U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

Diane Couch, a fabric worker in the 402nd Maintenance Wing’s Fabric and Survival shop, sews patches on uniforms. U.S. Air Force photo by SUE SAPP

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- When it comes to survival, no one knows what it takes for warfighters to survive better than the staff of the Parachute and Life Support Shop.

The shop's mission is to provide all the equipment necessary for warfighters to survive in an emergency situation.

"When they are flying in the aircraft and, God forbid, something happens, we make sure they have everything they need to survive on the ground or in the water," said Jan Derico, a fabric worker.

The team of life savers is responsible for the inspection, repair and packing of all sorts of life saving gear, like one-man and 20-man rafts used on KC- 135s, C-130s and F-15s and life preservers for passengers and pilots.

The shop also maintains escape slides for KC-135s used to evacuate passengers and anti exposure suits used to protect members of air crews from exposure to cold water temperatures in the event of a crash into a body of water.

"The biggest thing to know about survival equipment is this equipment is designed to take them from a very bad situation and save their lives," said Michael Dunn, a fabric worker.

The team also maintains survival kits, which include all the necessities a person needs to survive and be located for rescue, such as food and water rations, a solar blanket that soaks up solar energy, sunscreen and bug repellent to protect them from the elements, a fishing kit and knife to help them find more food and a dye marker kit, which allows someone stranded in water to dye the water a bright color so rescue planes can see them.

"Our job gives them the last opportunity for survival," Ms. Derico said. "We are the last to let them down in an emergency situation. If everything else fails, we are here doing our best to ensure the air crew reach the ground safely."

Everyday, survival gear maintained by the shop is providing a security blanket for Airmen all around the world who might find themselves in a situation where there life
depends on the materials in a survival kit or a parachute helping them reach safety.

"We hope for the best, but we help plan for the worst," Ms. Derico said.

The shop is also responsible for maintaining three different types of parachutes. Both the Advanced Concept Ejection Seats Recovery Parachute, which is used by pilots of F-15, and the Drogue chutes, which are attached to the back of the ejection seat in F-15s, are maintained for the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center Depot Maintenance.

The third chute, the Back Automatic, is used on KC-135s and is maintained for the 19th Air Refueling Group.

"Every time we pack a parachute, we give a human being a chance to survive a disastrous situation," Mr. Dunn said. Mr. Dunn, who has been working in the shop since he retired from the Army as a master parachutist, knows first hand how important a properly packed parachute is.

"I've actually worn a BA-22 (Back Automatic) parachute that was packed at Robins," Mr. Dunn said. "If something would have happened, I had confidence that the equipment would be there to save me."