Parachute shop

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
  • 16th SOW Public Affairs
The parachute shop on Hurlburt Field has a huge responsibility. The lives of fliers literally depend on these Airmen.

“The hardest part of this job is dealing with the fact that we could save or kill someone,” said Senior Airman Derek Scott, a survival equipment specialist.

There are five types and more that 2,000 chutes on base that must be maintained, cleaned, repaired, inspected and packed.

The survival equipment specialists in the parachute shop, a component of 16th Equipment Maintenance Squadron’s fabrication flight, are responsible for all of these parachutes, including those for tenant units like the 720th Special Tactics Group.

The hard work and dedication of the troops there have not gone unnoticed.
The parachute shop was awarded the Maintenance Professionalism Team Award for 16th EMS and 16th Maintenance Group for December 2005.

The expertise of such highly-skilled performers is not honed overnight.

The Airmen are trained for 13 weeks at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, and then complete 15 months of on-the-job training before becoming completely certified. Airmen must master the basics of parachute construction; know how temperature and humidity affect parachutes and other fabrics. They must also be familiar with characteristics of rubberized items, solvents, heat, pressure affects on rubber, and proper handling, use, and disposal of hazardous waste and pyrotechnics.

The shop consists of 10 military and civilian members who each pack about six to seven chutes a day. It takes approximately 45 minutes to and hour to pack most types of chutes. Others can take up to three hours a piece.

It may seem like a routine and thankless job to some, but not to the Airmen who work there.

“The most rewarding part is when we get to see the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron jump using our chutes, and we see the fruits of our labors,” said Staff Sgt. Karen Swartz, NCOIC of the chute shop.

“When we pack for the STS guys, it makes us feel like we are more involved in the mission because they couldn’t do their job if we didn’t do ours,” Airman Scott said.