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35th, 80th AFE combine experience, grow in excellence

Members of the 8th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment flight from the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons pose for a photo at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 29, 2019. The 8th OSS AFE flight is split up in two different fighter squadrons, but will work together when manning is low due to TDYs or deployments to keep the mission going. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

Members of the 8th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment flight from the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons pose for a photo at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 29, 2019. The 8th OSS AFE flight is split up in two different fighter squadrons, but will work together when manning is low due to TDYs or deployments to keep the mission going. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Roper (left), 8th Operational Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman at the 35th Fighter Squadron “Pantons,” listens to Staff Sgt. Abegail Ehrlich, 8 OSS aircrew flight equipment journeyman at the 80th FS “Juvats,” while performing maintenance on a pilot’s helmet at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 29, 2019. While the AFE flight falls under the 8 OSS, the members work separately for the 80th and 35th FS in separate locations and don’t frequently work side by side. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Roper (left), 8th Operational Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman at the 35th Fighter Squadron “Pantons,” listens to Staff Sgt. Abegail Ehrlich, 8 OSS aircrew flight equipment journeyman at the 80th FS “Juvats,” while performing maintenance on a pilot’s helmet at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 29, 2019. While the AFE flight falls under the 8 OSS, the members work separately for the 80th and 35th FS in separate locations and don’t frequently work side by side. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Roper, 8th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman at the 35th Fighter Squadron “Pantons,” performs maintenance on a component of a pilot’s helmet at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 29, 2019. Everything a pilot needs to fly and survive in emergencies, from his helmet to ejection seat parachute, is maintained and prepared by AFE airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Roper, 8th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman at the 35th Fighter Squadron “Pantons,” performs maintenance on a component of a pilot’s helmet at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 29, 2019. Everything a pilot needs to fly and survive in emergencies, from his helmet to ejection seat parachute, is maintained and prepared by AFE airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Roper, 8th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman at the 35th Fighter Squadron “Pantons,” performs maintenance on a pilot’s oxygen mask at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 29, 2019. AFE is responsible for the maintenance and repair of a pilot’s gear and survival equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Roper, 8th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment journeyman at the 35th Fighter Squadron “Pantons,” performs maintenance on a pilot’s oxygen mask at Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, April 29, 2019. AFE is responsible for the maintenance and repair of a pilot’s gear and survival equipment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Stefan Alvarez)

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.”