BARKSDALE AFB, LA (KSLA) - There's a select group of airmen on Barksdale that serve as the lifeline to those who fly in the sky. They're often the unsung heroes in times of emergency. Their job must be perfected, one mistake could cost lives.
"We're basically life savers, the products are lifesavers, a parachute, in case anything was to go wrong, this is what will save aircrew," explained A1C Vanessa Morales.
These airmen are responsible for ensuring all flight and safety equipment is in perfect working order.
"Really important for us to do our job perfect every single time," said SSgt Jacob Rhodes. "Our motto here is, 'The last to let you down.' When an emergency happens the aircrew relies on us to bring them safely to the ground."
Inside Barksdale's chute shop, airmen inspect and repack everything from parachutes to survival kits.
"We throw your typical water packs in there, survival medical modules in case of emergency, and some cold-weather gear as well," explained Rhodes.
Attention to detail has never been more important.
"It's very crucial. I have to be very detailed, very careful with everything that I do," said Morales, "Since this pack is not indestructible whenever I am tacking and I'm using a needle have to make sure that I'm not piercing like for instance the oxygen hose or any other material that's essential for the job so my role is very crucial and everything that I do from beginning to end."
It takes about a day for a seasoned airman to inspect a single soft parachute for individuals.
What about the big yellow chutes seen on the back of B-52s?
"We call it the drag chute on the B-52," said Rhodes. "Most of the time it pops it when it lands, it comes out the back of the plane to help to slow the plane because the brakes aren't the greatest."
Airmen stretch the chute out along a long table, inspect it, air it out, fold it and pack it back into a bag. At the end it gets loaded back into the B-52. Inspecting the drag chute is a two person job. The chute itself weighs nearly 200 pounds. Airmen can inspect anywhere from 6 to 12 drag chutes on any given day.
While these airmen often stand in the shadow of aviators in the sky, their role in the overall mission is by far one of the most important.
"I like what we do, I like what we stand for, we save lives here," said Rhodes.