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Parachute riggers: One ripcord at a time

Senior Airman Dwain Miller carefully stacks the folds of a parachute during packing, at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, March 26, 2015. Miller, an 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment rigger, ensures that each fold overlaps the last, allowing the correct deployment of the chute. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Senior Airman Dwain Miller carefully stacks the folds of a parachute during packing, at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, March 26, 2015. Miller, an 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment rigger, ensures that each fold overlaps the last, allowing the correct deployment of the chute. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Taut suspension lines are secured to the outside of the chute on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, March 26, 2015. Rubber bands are used to provide the correct amount of tension for parachute deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

Taut suspension lines are secured to the outside of the chute on Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, March 26, 2015. Rubber bands are used to provide the correct amount of tension for parachute deployment. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie)

CAMP LEMONNIER, Djibouti (AFNS) -- The Air Force uses more than 20 types of parachutes to conduct personnel recovery, airdrops and asset insertion into combat zones. Knowing what type of parachute is required for each mission and verifying the safety of those parachutes is the job of a parachute rigger.

This responsibility on Camp Lemonnier is up to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Aircrew Flight Equipment riggers, deployed from Moffett Federal Airfield, California.

“Being a rigger, everything we do has to be 100 percent,” said Tech. Sgt. Isaac Corniel, the 82nd ERQS AFE NCO in charge. “There is no room for mistakes. There’s no room for error. Their lives are in our hands. Even if we have a small twist in a line we want to make it straight, as it can mean someone’s life.”

Being deployed to Djibouti has allowed the 82nd ERQS AFE to train on real-world missions unlike any other training they can get at home station.

AFE riggers are required to pack a variety of chutes in a variety of conditions throughout the world to meet mission needs. The packing can take from 35 minutes to several hours to inspect and repack. Along with the complex quality control measures that must be performed.

“We just try to be the best that we can. We preach quality, quantity and efficiency,” Corniel said. “We are combined with a variety of military forces being deployed, so our guys get to train on more scenarios than they would at home.”

According to Corniel, being deployed to Africa has allowed the team to have hands-on experience with more airdrop missions, whereas back home they would only provide chutes for one or two drops a month. The AFE Airmen said they have grown their understanding on the job to make their deployment a success.

“The guys have been great. They all live up to the riggers creed; they know now what it is to be a rigger,” Corniel said. “We are a part of something special and we strive to keep the history of excellence between the pararescue teams and riggers.”

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