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When all else fails, egress prevails

(Left to Right) Airman 1st Class Mark Armstrong, Staff Sgt. Keith Billings and Senior Airman Garron Theriault, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron egress technicians, remove an Advanced Concept Ejection System from an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 17, 2013. Egress technicians are responsible for all the components involved with the pilot’s ejection system. The A-10 is a specialized ground-attack aircraft which provides close air support to ground forces operating in Afghanistan. Armstrong, Billings and Theriault are all deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. ( U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt/ Stephenie Wade)

Airman 1st Class Mark Armstrong (left), Staff Sgt. Keith Billings and Senior Airman Garron Theriault remove an Advanced Concept Ejection System from an A-10 Thunderbolt II May 17, 2013, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Egress technicians are responsible for all the components involved with the pilot’s ejection system. Armstrong, Billings and Theriault are 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron egress technicians, deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Staff Sgt. Keith Billings, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron egress technician, uses a crane and a sling to remove an Advanced Concept Ejection System, otherwise known as the pilot ejection seat, from an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 17, 2013. The Airmen are completing a phase inspection, which requires a full  inspection of the removed seat, cockpit components and repair any discrepancies. Billings is deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga.  Billings is from Prattville, Ala.

Staff Sgt. Keith Billings uses a crane and a sling to remove an Advanced Concept Ejection System, otherwise known as the pilot ejection seat, from an A-10 Thunderbolt II May 17, 2013, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. The Airmen are completing a phase inspection, which requires a full inspection of the removed seat, cockpit components and repair any discrepancies. Billings is a 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron egress technician, deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Senior Airman Garron Theriault, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron egress technician, uses a mirror to examine the interior of an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft seat for cracks during an inspection on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 17, 2013. Aircrew egress system technicians ensure the safety of 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots by inspecting and performing preventative maintenance on the egress systems and components of the A-10. A-10s from Bagram fly daily to provide close air support to forces operating in Afghanistan. Theriault is from Harrison, Maine. ( U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt/ Stephenie Wade)

Senior Airman Garron Theriault uses a mirror to examine the interior of an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft seat for cracks during an inspection May 17, 2013 at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Aircrew egress system technicians ensure the safety of 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots by inspecting and performing preventative maintenance on the egress systems and components of the A-10. Theriault is an egress technician with the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. ( U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt/ Stephenie Wade)

Senior Airman Garron Theriault, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron egress technician, tests the elasticity of the parachute enclosure straps during an inspection on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 17, 2013. Aircrew egress system technicians ensure the safety of 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots by inspecting and performing preventative maintenance on the egress systems and components of the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Theriault is from Harrison, Maine. ( U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt/ Stephenie Wade)

Senior Airman Garron Theriault tests the elasticity of the parachute enclosure straps during an inspection May 17, 2013, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Aircrew egress system technicians ensure the safety of 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots by inspecting and performing preventative maintenance on the egress systems and components of the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Theriault is an egress technician with the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Senior Airman Garron Theriault, 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron egress technician, uses a mirror to examine an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft seat for cracks during an inspection on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 17, 2013. Aircrew egress system technicians ensure the safety of 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots by inspecting and performing preventative maintenance on the egress systems and components of the A-10. A-10s from Bagram fly daily to provide close air support to forces operating in Afghanistan. Theriault is from Harrison, Maine. ( U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt/ Stephenie Wade)

Senior Airman Garron Theriault uses a mirror to examine an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft seat for cracks during an inspection May 17, 2013, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Aircrew egress system technicians ensure the safety of 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots by inspecting and performing preventative maintenance on the egress systems and components of the A-10. Theriault is an egress technician with the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

Senior Airman Garron Theriault and Airman 1st Class Mark Armstrong, , 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron egress technicians remove panels prior to inspecting the internal parts of an A-10 Thunderbolt II ejection seat on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, May 17, 2013. Aircrew egress system technicians ensure the safety of 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots by inspecting and performing preventative maintenance on the egress systems and components of the A-10. Both Airmen are deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga.  ( U.S. Air Force photo/ Staff Sgt/ Stephenie Wade)

Senior Airman Garron Theriault and Airman 1st Class Mark Armstrong remove panels prior to inspecting the internal parts of an A-10 Thunderbolt II ejection seat May 17, 2013, at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Aircrew egress system technicians ensure the safety of 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron pilots by inspecting and performing preventative maintenance on the egress systems and components of the A-10. Both Airmen are 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron egress technicians, deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (AFNS) -- The ejection seat is the pilot's last option if something doesn't go according to plan. If it wasn't for a small group of specially-trained Airmen, pilots wouldn't be able to resort to this life-saving option.

Deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., Staff Sgt. Keith Billings, Senior Airman Garron Theriault and Airman 1st Class Mark Armstrong work as egress technicians assigned to the 455th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron here. These Airmen maintain all the A-10 Thunderbolt II's Advanced Concept Ejection Systems, ensuring all the mechanical components, to include the pilot's seat and cockpit explosives, function properly.

"All aircraft seats are basically the same, but some components differ depending on the airframe including the explosives used to launch the seat out of the aircraft," Armstrong said.

The explosives in the ACESII have the capability to launch the seat out of the aircraft at a force of 14Gs. According to Armstrong, the explosives fire in a sequence planned up to a hundredth of a second, to ensure a pilot can eject in the quickest and safest way.

"We time change explosives depending on their individual service life which could range anywhere from 7 to 19 years depending on the explosive," Billings said.

"We have an inspection called an Egress Final that is due every 30 days that we track in the Integrated Data Maintenance System for every A-10."

While conducting the Egress Final inspection, the Airmen perform a full visual inspection of the ejection system, which includes the seat, cockpit components and explosives. If anything is found broken or out of technical data specifications, it's the egress technician's job to ground the jet and pull the seat to repair the defect prior to returning the aircraft to flying status.

"Our major inspection is the 36-month inspection, which requires the seat to be removed, and a full break down and rebuild of seat," Theriault said.

During an inspection, the egress technicians use a sling and a crane to lift the ejection seat from the aircraft, placing it gently onto a platform for transfer to a work area. All the components of the seat are removed including the chute, kit and seat explosive to verify service life. Next, they conduct pull checks on the ejection handles to make sure they have the correct amount of pull force for the pilot to actuate the ejection sequence and repair any discrepancies found during the visual inspection. Finally, the Airmen paint the seat and ejection handles for corrosion control and the parts are inspected by quality assurance team members.

"The difference between egress and the rest of the maintenance squadron career fields is egress can't conduct ops checks on the ejection seats," Armstrong said. "But we have to do our job, making no mistakes, and know that our system will always work every time without even testing it."

Whether conducting a 36-month inspection or doing a number of explosive time changes, egress technicians take pride in their work.

"Our system is the pilot's last option if something doesn't go according to plan and we take great pride in that," Billings said. "When all else fails, egress prevails."