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Medical equipment, ingenuity saves sorties

Two airmen hold an oxygen purity tester connected to an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christian Autry and Airman 1st Class Christopher Fougere, both 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit electrical and environmental systems specialists, test oxygen concentration levels for pilot breathing equipment on an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 30, 2021. Both Airmen were coined by Col. Jesse Friedel, 35th Fighter Wing commander, for their quick thinking and ability to problem solve in order to ready six jets that were sidelined due to overdue oxygen generating systems inspections. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joao Marcus Costa)

A military member stands next to a oxygen purity tester in his office

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Jackson, 35th Medical Support Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of unscheduled maintenance, stands next to an oxygen tester at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 28, 2021. The oxygen tester that Jackson supplied to the 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit enabled completion of critical oxygen testing after their oxygen tester expired. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joao Marcus Costa)

Two military members stand side by side displaying the coins they were awarded by the base commander

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Jackson, 35th Medical Support Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of unscheduled maintenance, and Airman 1st Class Christopher Fougere, 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit electrical and environmental systems specialist, present the coins they were awarded at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Sept. 9, 2021. They were recognized by Col. Jesse Friedel, 35th Fighter Wing commander, for working together to find a solution across different career fields to test oxygen systems of F-16 Fighting Falcons in a timely manner. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joao Marcus Costa)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --

Fighter aircraft don’t usually need medical assistance, but when they do it requires innovation and teamwork.

One such instance occurred when an unlikely duo, the 13th Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) and the 35th Medical Support Squadron, teamed up to ensure F-16 Fighting Falcons could take off in time for an important mission thousands of miles away from home.

Several jets were overdue for an oxygen test, meaning they couldn’t fly until cleared; unfortunately it was discovered that the oxygen tester, which is required to check for proper oxygen levels, had expired.

Time was ticking to avoid the mission cancellation, two days to be exact; and the required oxygen tester would not arrive for another two weeks.

“We were looking for any solution, but with our particular setup of the oxygen concentrator and oxygen regulator there's really only one way to check purity,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christian Autry, 13th AMU electrical and environmental systems specialist. “And that's with the tester we use.”

The team was faced with the choice of figuring out a way to test the levels or canceling a major component of the mission.

In the pressure of the moment, Autry thought back to his experiences in Airman Leadership School, specifically networking and learning from other career fields.

Autry, thinking it was a long shot, called his former classmate Staff Sgt. Tyler Jackson, 35th Medical Support Squadron non-commissioned officer in charge of unscheduled maintenance at the biomedical equipment repair shop.

He kept it short and sweet: We need a specific or similar device, can you help?

That’s when they both realized that the 35th Medical Group and 13th AMU use the exact same device to test oxygen levels.

“The medical group has to have pure oxygen for patients, and we use the oxygen sensors to test our ventilators,” Jackson explained. “We have oxygen concentrators that we have to test and get at least a 90% purity reading.”

Together, with Jackson’s knowledge and Autry’s team, they were able to test the equipment which resulted in all the aircraft approved for flight in time for the exercise.

“This is an example of Air Force training at work,” Autry said. “Thanks to the connection from ALS with Staff Sgt. Jackson and the capable Airmen with me on shift, we were able to get the mission done in time.”

Both Airmen and their teams were recognized for their innovative approach and ensuring a successful mission for the 35th Fighter Wing.

“Staff Sgt. Autry and Staff Sgt. Jackson challenged the status quo with resourcefulness and ingenuity to overcome what initially appeared to be an unsurpassable obstacle,” said Col. Jesse J. Friedel, 35th Fighter Wing commander. “I’m proud to call these Airmen part of Team Misawa. The approach they took to solve this challenge speaks volumes of their potential. They are the type of leaders our future Air Force needs.”