Airmen see hard work materialize from Viper backseat

Airmen receive familiarization flights in an F-16 Fighting Falcon during aviation training relocation.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dominic Cicci, a 35th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, holds up ‘C’, representing the 13th Fighter Squadrons motto “Cave Putorium” prior to an F-16 Fighting Falcon familiarization flight at Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Oct. 4, 2017. Cicci is responsible for helmets, oxygen masks, harnesses and all life-saving equipment pilots use in-flight. He explained physically experiencing the equipment he works on every day provided him with a greater understanding of his job’s importance and how he can now better explain the use of the equipment to other flyers. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Airmen receive familiarization flights in an F-16 Fighting Falcon during aviation training relocation.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Wesley Hales, left, the 13th Fighter Squadron director of operations, and Staff Sgt. Dylan Wyant, a 35th Fighter Wing information security systems officer, walk to an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Oct. 2, 2017. Four Airmen who provide underlying support to flying operations received familiarization flights. Wyant was the first to receive a flight during the aviation training relocation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Airmen receive familiarization flights in an F-16 Fighting Falcon during aviation training relocation.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Wyant 35th Fighter Wing, information security systems officer, connects an oxygen mask to a combined aircrew system tester during the initial preparation for an F-16 Fighting Falcon familiarization flight at Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Oct. 2, 2017. Four Airmen were chosen to receive familiarization flights in order to show them how their individual career fields contribute to accomplishing the 13th Fighter Squadron's mission. Security forces, aircrew flight equipment, communications and maintenance Airmen were selected for these familiarization flights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Airmen receive familiarization flights in an F-16 Fighting Falcon during aviation training relocation.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Wesley Hales, left, the 13th Fighter Squadron director of operations, talks with Airman 1st Class Christopher Butler, right, a 35th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, prior to takeoff at Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Oct. 5, 2017. Butler was one of four Airmen who experienced the g-forces and maneuverability of the F-16 Fighting Falcon during a familiarization flight. The fam flyer program helps Airmen who support the F-16 mission to better understand how their duties directly impact the success of those missions.(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Airmen receive familiarization flights in an F-16 Fighting Falcon during aviation training relocation.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dominic Cicci, a 13th Fighter Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, checks the size of a flight suit prior to preparing an F-16 Fighting Falcon familiarization flight flyer during an aviation training relocation to Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Oct. 5, 2017. Cicci was one of four fam flyers to get a firsthand look into a pilot’s daily mission. The pilots elected to fly security forces, aircrew flight equipment, communications and maintenance Airmen during this ATR because it bridged the gap between pilots and other career fields, overall enhancing the warrior mentality. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Airmen receive familiarization flights in an F-16 Fighting Falcon during aviation training relocation.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Steven Colby Means, a 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons expediter, smiles after getting buckled into the backseat of an F-16 Fighting Falcon during an aviation training relocation to Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Oct. 4, 2017. Means has loaded munitions onto the Viper for three years. The goal of the flight was to familiarize individuals with aviation-related responsibilities with the F-16 and the missions they make possible for pilots to complete every day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Airmen receive familiarization flights in an F-16 Fighting Falcon during aviation training relocation.

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Dominic Cicci, a 35th Operations Support Squadron's aircrew flight equipment technician, tightens a helmet for Staff Sgt. Dylan Wyant, a 35th Fighter Wing information security systems officer, during initial preparation for an F-16 Fighting Falcon familiarization flight at Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Oct. 2, 2017. During a recent aviation training relocation to Tsuiki AB, two AFE technicians fitted and briefed four Airmen from various career fields on operating survival gear prior to flight. Fam flights provide Airmen from various career fields with a better understanding of what happens at the operational end of the spectrum and how their daily mission impacts the 13th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

Airmen receive familiarization flights in an F-16 Fighting Falcon during aviation training relocation.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Corey Harrison, a 35th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, wipes the inside of an oxygen mask after a flight during an aviation training relocation to Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, Oct. 2, 2017. The 35th OSS AFE technicians fix helmets, oxygen masks, harnesses and all life-saving equipment and provided the highest level of attention to detail to a pilot’s gear because it is the difference between life and death. Their motto is "When everything else fails, we are the last ones to let them down." (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Melanie A. Hutto)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan -- A critical piece in the preparation to fly in an F-16 Fighting Falcon is to ensure the pilots are equipped for any situation.

The 35th Operations Support Squadron's aircrew flight equipment technicians fix helmets, oxygen masks, harnesses and all life-saving equipment, providing the highest level of attention to detail to a pilot’s gear because it is the difference between life and death.

“Our motto is ‘When everything else fails, we are the last ones to let them down’," said Senior Airman Dominic Cicci, a 35th OSS AFE technician. “Preserving the life of the aircrew is our mission.”

During a recent aviation training relocation to Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, two AFE specialists fitted and briefed four Airmen from various career fields on survival gear and how to operate it prior to a familiarization flight.

Cicci was among the four who received the ride of a lifetime.

“It was an intense ride,” he said. “To physically experience the equipment I work on every day was awesome. I walked away with a greater understanding of why my job is important.”

Because of the 13th Fighter Squadron giving back to their dedicated Airman as a thank you, Cicci not only was one happy technician, but he also gained the situational awareness to better explain the use of the equipment to any flyer in the future. 

“The flight will help me perform my job better,” Cicci continued.

Tech. Sgt. Steven Colby Means, a 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons expediter, Staff Sgt. Dylan Wyant, a 35th Fighter Wing information security systems officer and Airman 1st Class Christopher Butler, a 35th Security Forces Squadron patrolman, also received familiarization flights in an F-16.

"Giving Airmen from various career fields an F-16 flight provides them with a better understanding of what happens at the operational end of the spectrum,” said Lt. Col Wesley Hales, the 13th FS director of operations.

Riding in the backseat of a Viper provides first-hand experience of what a pilot’s body goes through and what it takes in order to execute a mission set.

“I know pilots are essential to the mission’s success, but now I know how much effort and energy they put in for a mission to be successful,” said Butler.

The Airmen who received fam flights provide underlying support to flying operations; however, they may not always understand how their efforts contribute to the Wild Weasel mission.

“Bridging that gap is vital to enhancing the warrior mentality that makes us lethal in combat and keeps us sharp,” Hales said. “It's why we elected to fly security forces, aircrew flight equipment, communications and maintenance Airmen during this ATR.”

Understanding the mission at all levels allows an individual to have a greater sense of purpose.

“If they walk away from their flight motivated about their contribution to the fight, then the sortie was a success,” Hales concluded.