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No margin for error

By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Gonsier 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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The life of every Airman is vital to the mission, which makes protecting those lives a priority.

Airmen from the 2nd Maintenance Squadron accessories flight aircrew egress are entrusted with ensuring aircrew are able to eject from an aircraft if the need arises.

"My job is to maintain B-52 ejection seats and hatches," said Staff Sgt. Louie Bennett, 2 MXS aircrew egress technician. "We remove and replace explosive time change items on the aircraft that are used to make the ejection process work."

In addition to maintenance, egress technicians inspect the seats inside the aircraft every 30 days, Bennett added. When the aircraft reaches 450 flying hours, it will go to the phase hanger to be taken apart. The seats are taken out and given a more in-depth inspection.

"Every time a seat comes out of an aircraft, it must be inspected before we put it back in," Bennett said.

Their technical order has 14 steps that must be followed as a 5-level technician conducts the inspection, he said. There must always be one Airman inspecting the ejection seat and another looking at the TO. After this inspection, a 7-level technician double checks it to make sure everything is correct.

"The ejection seat is the only system in the Air Force that has to work 100 percent of the time," Bennett added. "We can't ops check our system, so we have to know that it will work every time. If not, someone will die. We are the last chance for life."

In order to ensure there is no margin for error, new Airmen are given additional training before they can receive hands-on experience.

"Our Airmen go through a basic training course from tech school," Bennett said. "It covers every jet they are going to work on. Not really any specific jet, just hands on advice on what egress is and to get the terminology down."

When new Airmen get to Barksdale, they go to the 372nd Field Training Detachment for two weeks to learn about the B-52H Stratofortress and everything they do at egress. When their training at FTD is complete, the Airmen start to receive hands-on experience on the aircraft as well as on-the-job training and career development courses. The Airmen will receive their 5-level after 12 months of training.

"We try to instill in them what we were taught as Airmen," said Bennett. "Following proper explosives procedures and proper safety while working with explosives, and making sure they follow their TOs."

While stationed at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, Bennett had a total of three ejection attempts on planes he worked on, with all ejections being successful.

"When I heard they ejected safely I felt great," Bennett said. "It's what we are here for; to make sure they go home."

The aircrew relies on the egress technicians to be 100 percent right every time, according to Maj. Warren Carroll, 11th Bomb Squadron assistant director of operations.

"Egress has a tendency to be one of the more underappreciated career fields," he said. "Their commitment to excellence and doing everything by the book allows us to rely on that equipment when we need it the most."

Carroll knows aircrew members who have ejected and understands how important the egress job is to the bomber mission.

"Egress is one of the most critical career fields," said Carroll. "We owe our very lives to the egress technicians."