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Life support provides keys to success

TAEGU AIR BASE, South Korea -- Staff Sgt. Christopher Craig cleans an oxygen mask.  He is deployed here from the 353rd Special Operations Group life support section at Kadena Air Base, Japan.  Life support airmen maintain all life-sustaining gear used by aircrews including chemical and biological protection suits, helmets and night-vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Farris)

TAEGU AIR BASE, South Korea -- Staff Sgt. Christopher Craig cleans an oxygen mask. He is deployed here from the 353rd Special Operations Group life support section at Kadena Air Base, Japan. Life support airmen maintain all life-sustaining gear used by aircrews including chemical and biological protection suits, helmets and night-vision goggles. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Michael Farris)

TAEGU AIR BASE, South Korea (AFPN) -- When aircrews find themselves in a pinch, they rely on experience and equipment to pull them through. Gaining experience is the crew's responsibility, but the 353rd Special Operations Group life support shop airmen provide a multitude of gadgets and gizmos that allow air commandos to get their job done.

Master Sgt. Fred Meyer is the superintendent of the shop deployed here for Exercise Foal Eagle and the 353rd's operational readiness inspection. He said the list of life-saving devices has grown over the years and the technical expertise required to maintain that mountain of mechanisms has skyrocketed.

"We maintain helmets, handheld (Global Positioning Systems), parachutes, encrypted radios, life rafts, exposure suits, survival vests and a million other items the crews fly with," he said. "In years past, much of the maintenance (was) farmed out to other agencies, but recently more of that responsibility has rested with us. It's a challenge to keep up with the internal workings of so many systems."

The eight life support specialists work around the clock while deployed for Foal Eagle and offer the SOG crews all the services they are used to at their home station of Kadena Air Base, Japan.

"Anything we do at home, we can do here," Meyer said.

Night-vision goggles are the bread-and-butter of special operations fliers and, not surprisingly, eat up most of Meyer's time.

"Not only are these devices small, but there are a lot of moving parts," he said. "But without this equipment working properly, the missions can't go."

Tech. Sgt. Luis Pineiro, a 16-year life support veteran, has witnessed the evolution of his career field from no-tech to low-tech to "holy cow."

"Another change I've seen is the shrinking size of the equipment over the years," he said. "The 15-pound armor plates in the aircrew body armor are now 7 and-a-half pounds. You can hold a GPS in the palm of your hand instead of in the bed of a truck, and the radios are smaller too."

One thing that has not waned is life support's enthusiasm and pledge to give the crews the best equipment possible. (Courtesy of Pacific Air Forces News Service)

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