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Aviator helps pilots fly in Big Sky Country

Tech. Sgt. Michelle Bresson performs a pre-flight inspection Nov. 5, 2014, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Bresson is a 40th Helicopter Squadron special missions aviator and her responsibilities typically include keeping the pilots advised of anything that is going on with the aircraft – if there are any malfunctions with the aircraft, the aviators are the system experts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

Tech. Sgt. Michelle Bresson performs a pre-flight inspection Nov. 5, 2014, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Bresson is a 40th Helicopter Squadron special missions aviator and her responsibilities typically include keeping the pilots advised of anything that is going on with the aircraft – if there are any malfunctions with the aircraft, the aviators are the system experts. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Joshua Smoot)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. (AFNS) -- (This feature is part of the "Through Airmen's Eyes" series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.)

When people see helicopters flying, many may imagine just the pilots in the helicopter soaring through the sky. But, there is more to a successful flight than the pilots alone.

Tech. Sgt. Michelle Bresson, a 40th Helicopter Squadron special missions aviator, has been assisting helicopter pilots at Malmstrom Air Force Base for nearly five years.

Her responsibilities typically include keeping the pilots advised of anything that is going on with the aircraft. If there are any malfunctions with the aircraft, special missions aviators are the system experts. They are the ones that are going to be giving pilots advice on what could possibly be going wrong.

"We have to be the voice of reason in the back of the aircraft," Bresson said.

Bresson's day typically starts with her getting to work and checking the flight schedule to see which aircraft are flying that day.

After finding out the aircraft her crew will be on that day, Bresson performs a pre-flight inspection on the aircraft and any equipment that needs to be inspected prior to take-off.

A preflight inspection consists of checking all of the moving parts of the aircraft that can be touched, predominately the rotor system, Bresson said.

During the inspection, Bresson makes sure everything on the aircraft that needs to be secured is secured.

"I make sure there's nothing binding or loose that shouldn't be," Bresson said.

To conclude the pre-flight inspection, Bresson checks the general security of certain parts, while also going through and checking the outside of the engines and the inside of different panels making sure everything is ready for flight. She then returns to the squadron to check the weight and balance of the aircraft, check the scheduled departure and landing times and meet with any crew members who will be a part of the flight during a pre-mission brief prior to take off.

During an average week, Bresson and the pilots fly anywhere from three to five sorties.

Being a special missions aviator is Bresson's second job in the Air Force. Bresson, who has been serving for 12 years, would consider this job her favorite.

"I enjoy getting out and seeing Montana and getting to work with our pilots, tactical response force members and particularly enjoy (performing) search and rescue missions," Bresson said.

One of the more memorable missions Bresson has been a part of would most likely be her first search and rescue mission, she said.

Her first mission was during the Fourth of July weekend four years ago. Bresson and her team rescued a 21-year-old male who fell down a muddy embankment and injured his leg during his bachelor party. The individual spent 24 hours in the embankment before Bresson and her team reached him.

Once they arrived, they were unable to land their aircraft, so they dropped a Stokes Litter to extract him from the area. The on-flight doctor placed the individual on the litter, the crew then hoisted them both up and then transported the individual to an airport in Missoula, Montana, where they were met by an ambulance. The individual made a safe recovery and walked down the aisle a few days later on his wedding day on crutches.

Bresson grew up in Great Falls, Montana, before joining the Air Force.

"I was overjoyed when I found out I was getting to come back here," Bresson said. "It was my first choice of assignments."

When selecting the jobs she wanted to retrain into, Bresson knew she wanted to work on helicopters.

"I wanted to come back to Great Falls, but more than anything I wanted helicopters," Bresson said.

When putting in for retrain, Bresson knew there was no guarantee she was going to get a job working on helicopters.

"I didn't realize until I put in for retrain and wanted helicopters that there were helicopters at Malmstrom AFB," Bresson said. "So when I found that out, I knew for sure this is where I wanted to go.

"Finding out about getting my first choice assignment and getting to come back (to her hometown) on my dad's birthday was exciting," Bresson added.

Bresson enjoys being back in her hometown performing a job she is proud of.

"I feel like I actually get to give back to the community more," Bresson said. "I feel that there is a more directed impact on what I am doing more than just putting an aircraft into the sky."

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