TSgt Derrick Eldridge: keeps pilots safe Published Nov. 5, 2021 By Staff Sgt. Nije Hightower 301st Fighter Wing Public Affairs NAVAL AIR STATION JOINT RESERVE BASE FORT WORTH, Texas -- When fighter pilots fly, each piece of their equipment must function properly—especially in case of an emergency—and the warriors from the 301st Fighter Wing Aircrew Flight Equipment unit ensure all flight and safety equipment is ready for any situation. One Airman, Tech. Sgt. Derrick Eldridge, 301st Fighter Wing AFE section non-commissioned officer in charge, plays a key role in helping the wing achieve its mission—to train and deploy combat Airmen—while also giving pilots peace of mind. “As AFE, our job is to train and maintain deployment readiness for our pilots, regardless of [the situation]—whether it is a combat mission, support mission, training or humanitarian aid,” said Eldridge. “It is our duty to make sure any pilot would return to their families if they were to ever use any of our life-sustaining equipment such as the parachute or survival kit.” Eldridge enlistment in the U.S. Air Force Reserve in 2015. He was assigned to Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas and explained what drew him to the Air Force. “When I [was signing up], AFE really interested me because it involved teaching and learning survival skills,” said Eldridge. “[It also provided] a work environment which is professional, as well as robust, and provided an atmosphere of comradery and professional development.” AFE is charged with maintaining flight equipment as well as training pilots for survival situations should they have to eject from their aircraft. Every three years for example, pilots must satisfy a water survival training requirement which AFE conducts. They coordinate various exercise including water extractions, parachute canopy escape, parachute-string disentanglement and one-person life raft training. After four years, he moved to NAS JBR Fort Worth to support the 301 FW Operations Support Squadron and currently serves as an Air Reserve Technician (ART). An ART is a dual-role Reserve Citizen Airman who fulfills their Traditional Reservist commitment—one weekend a month and two weeks a year—while also working within the same unit every Monday through Friday to support the mission. Coming to Fort Worth has been a beneficial move for Eldridge. “I enjoy having the personal interaction with aircrew members and having a close relationship with my coworkers,” he said. “Our career field also provides the opportunity for individuals to network, develop life skills, as well as professional skills which can be used outside the military.” Serving in the military is not only an exciting career for Eldridge but it is also a family tradition. “[I] was raised in a military family, where every generation served,” said Eldridge. “So, it is a legacy in my family which I am proud to continue.” Using his relationships and the skills he’s developed, Eldridge demonstrates and communicates a key trait to be successful in the career field. “To be an effective AFE Airman, the Airmen must have a positive attitude and have the ability to adapt to any situation,” Eldridge said. “This approach also applies to so many aspects of life.” He is also using that same approach outside of the military. Eldridge added he is currently working towards a master’s degree in business administration to open more career opportunities. He believes self-development will help him become a more effective Air Force leader. The sky’s the limit for Eldridge both inside and outside of the military. His next goal is to become the flight chief and lead trainer because he is passionate about how AFE supports their aircrew.