JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
“Always sure,” said Alaska Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Ferdie Villaflores, 176th Operations Support Squadron (OSS) aircrew flight equipment (AFE) technician. “That is the motto we live by here in the Guardian Angel Section. The motto for the rescue community is ‘so others may live,’ and we need to be sure their equipment works 100 percent of the time, no matter what.”
The AFE Guardian Angel Section supports a partnership with the 212th Rescue Squadron by maintaining the equipment the squadron needs to accomplish their mission.
They are responsible for personnel equipment such as oxygen masks for high altitude-low opening jumps as well as emergency equipment and night vision goggles. The section also acts as riggers and prepares the parachutes pararescuemen use for training and real-world situations.
Their expertise and careful attention to detail allows pararescuemen to complete their mission without worry.
“We have to be meticulous and check our work because we know people’s lives depend on our work,” said Alaska Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Eduardo Peguero, 176th OSS AFE technician. “When pararescuemen utilize our equipment, they show they really trust our team and how we deliver all the time. We have to make sure we're doing our job 110 percent to protect their lives.”
Peguero transferred to the Alaska Air National Guard for the AFE career field after approximately 10 years in the Air Force in personnel.
Peguero said he enjoys challenging himself by working with his hands in AFE.
“I’m happy with my decision to make the change to AFE,” Peguero said. “I enjoy every bit of it. AFE is rewarding and everyone is appreciative of what we do.”
Rigging a parachute can take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, depending on its configuration.
With this in mind, AFE Airmen see the role they play in mission readiness in the Last Frontier.
“Without our job, pararescuemen can't do theirs, so we play an important role in the rescue community in Alaska,” said Alaska Air National Guard Master Sgt. Sara Jones, 176th OSS AFE Guardian Angel flight chief. “Here we have a real-world rescue mission to support.”
AFE Airmen said seeing the result from their jobs is rewarding.
“Rigging comes with a sense of pride,” said Alaska Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Mel Romero, 176th OSS AFE technician. “It’s hard to put into words, but knowing you could potentially save a life feels good.”
Both Peguero and Romero are among those in the rigging community who have supported a real-world life-saving mission with their parachutes.
“After the mission, the pararescuemen stopped by to tell us how thankful they were that the parachutes opened and enabled them to save a life,” Romero said. “We have really built a relationship with the pararescuemen in the 212th Rescue Squadron.”
Overall, Airmen assigned to the Guardian Angel Section know they are supporting mission readiness with every piece of equipment they prepare.
“We definitely make an impact,” Romero said. “We put our heart and soul into our work. We’re saving lives and helping people.”