Egress integration shop – the pilot’s last line of defense

Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeyman, inspects a retaining pin on a training ejection seat parachute at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. The egress shops work schedule varies depending on flight operations each week. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeyman, inspects a retaining pin on a training ejection seat parachute at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. The egress shops work schedule varies depending on flight operations each week. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Senior Airman Patrick Hatcher and Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeymen, inspect a training ejection seat at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. The egress shop works on all ejection seats for Whiteman’s B-2 Spirit and T-38 Talon aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Senior Airman Patrick Hatcher and Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeymen, inspect a training ejection seat at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. The egress shop works on all ejection seats for Whiteman’s B-2 Spirit and T-38 Talon aircraft. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Senior Airman Patrick Hatcher, Airman 1st Class Matthew Roberts, and Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeymen, inspect a training ejection seat at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. Every 30 days, the B-2 Spirit cockpit seat must be inspected by someone with a 7-level training certification. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Senior Airman Patrick Hatcher, Airman 1st Class Matthew Roberts, and Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeymen, inspect a training ejection seat at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. Every 30 days, the B-2 Spirit cockpit seat must be inspected by someone with a 7-level training certification. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeyman, reviews a training manual while working on a training ejection seat at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. The egress shop consists of 18 Airmen who work in two shifts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeyman, reviews a training manual while working on a training ejection seat at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. The egress shop consists of 18 Airmen who work in two shifts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeyman, places a pin in a training ejection seat at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. The egress shop has been fully integrated with members of the 131st AMXS egress shop since 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

Airman 1st Class Christopher Amsel, 509th Maintenance Squadron egress systems journeyman, places a pin in a training ejection seat at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., March 19, 2013. The egress shop has been fully integrated with members of the 131st AMXS egress shop since 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Bryan Crane/Released)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- -- If a mishap occurs during flight, it is vital that pilots be able to safely eject from the cockpit. The 509th Maintenance Squadron egress shop is responsible to ensure they can accomplish just that.

The egress shop's mission is to handle required maintenance for all parts of the ejection seats in the B-2 Spirit and T-38 Talon.

"We are responsible for all explosive maintenance, time changes and scheduled maintenance on the egress systems for both the B-2 and T-38," said Tech. Sgt. Jacob Bavin, 509th MXS egress section chief.

The egress shop consists of only 18 members, including two full-time 131st Bomb Wing Air National Guard members who have been fully integrated into the mission.

"We began our integration back in 2009," said Tech. Sgt. Adam Grant, 131st Maintenance Squadron egress section chief. "It was tough at first figuring out positions for everybody and how to effectively use each other's skill sets. I think after the first few months, the process has gone incredible smooth, and now we feel there is no difference between the active guys and the Guardsmen."

Overall, the members of the shop feel they are one of the most integrated groups on the base.

"We have become a very cohesive team," Grant said. "If we need support on a drill weekend, they will give us a few bodies to help us out. We in turn help them by working 12-hour shifts, working late and really anything else to help the shop succeed."

All members of the 131st MXS egress shop can complete any task with the same degree of professionalism and competence as active members, he said.

When it comes to the pace of their schedule, the shop goes through up and downs throughout the year.

"The amount of work we do really varies," said Bavin. "It all depends on the flights and when a part has to be changed out."

All parts on the egress systems have a different life expectancy, which can cause a buildup in maintenance work.

"Some of the parts may last for six years before being replaced," said Bavin. "Other parts may last nine years. So sometimes you may get stuck with multiple parts that need to be changed out at the same time and it can create a busy schedule for us."

One example why the egress team stays busy is the amount of effort required to perform work on the B-2's cockpit seat. It takes the shop around two and a half days to take a seat out of the jet and complete proper maintenance.

"The B-2 takes a lot longer to get the maintenance done because it is a more complicated jet," said Grant. "It only takes an hour to get the seat out of an F-16 Fighting Falcon."

In addition to changing parts when their life expectancy has expired, the egress shop must also send someone with 7-level training certification out to check on all egress systems every 30 days.

The 18-man shop has Airmen working day shifts, swing shifts and also a weekend shift.

"Our schedule can change based off of flying schedules," said Bavin. "If they have a different flying schedule, we will accommodate them and change our schedule up."

Although it is a smaller shop with a large workload, the Airmen of the egress shop accomplish their job with the highest degree of skill, said Grant.

"I know all jobs on base are important and must be done right," said Grant. "But this job is unique in the aspect that we are the absolute last resort. We don't have a backup engine if the egress system fails. We have to do our job perfect every time and pay 100 percent, full attention to every detail, because that pilot's life literally rides in our hands."