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'In a way we're like brothers in arms': Commanders equipment team and Air Force flight equipment team participate in eye-opening, educational exchange

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Last week, the Commanders equipment team got a fun and interesting break from its time preparing for training camp as it hosted members from the 121st Fighter Squadron's flight equipment shop of the D.C. Air National Guard. The week was capped off by a reciprocal visit as the Commanders crew made the trip to Joint Base Andrews to get their own behind-the-scenes look at what the flight equipment shop does.

"Both groups got a hands-on tour of each other's workspace gaining an appreciation for a day in the life of their counterparts. These are two unheralded, 'in-the-background' groups who are critically important to the greater success of their respective organizations," said Chris Bailey, Washington Salute lead. "121st pilots can't get off the ground without the well-maintained gear the flight equipment team outfits them with, just like Commanders players can't take the field without the gear our staff provides them with."

The exchange was impactful on a few key levels. For one, the two teams, who are so deeply immersed in their intense lines of respective work, got a chance to get out and learn about a totally different industry. Seeing these distinctions was enlightening. Just as eye-opening, however, were the many connections these groups saw between what they do in equipment for a football team and what they do in equipment for the Air Force.

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On Tuesday and Thursday, two groups from the 121st Fighter Squadron's Flight Equipment shop were taken through the facilities at Commanders Park with a special emphasis on the equipment room. Here, the military visitors were shown the many intricacies of taking care of the Commanders gear, which included lessons on sewing, laundry, storage, jersey making, helmet fittings and more.

"It was a wonderful experience," said technical sergeant Heather Martin. "Being in the military for a long time, it's easy to get locked into one aspect of our careers and so it's interesting to just see how other people are doing their jobs."

In listening to the Commanders equipment staff talk about their tasks and priorities, staff sergeant Brent Stewart was struck by the many parallels between his job at Joint Base Andrews and the equipment crew's job in Ashburn.

"We have an 'away game' place when we deploy, everything is about our pilots just as it is here about the players, the way we custom fit our guys is kind of the same," Stewart said. "We're always quick to react to our guys if they need something, if they call a red ball or if there's a part that they need that's not performing well. We're always out there just like they're always out there on the field trying to fix a ripped jersey or things like that…In a way we're like brothers in arms in how we do our equipment."


Those cool parallels also dawned on Commanders co-equipment manager Drew Curls during his visit to the base last Friday. Curls and other members from the team were given a first-class hospitality experience at Joint Base Andrews thanks to Master Sergeant Jesse McCarley. The Commanders visitors were able to see the F-16 planes up close and received the same sort of special equipment team walk-through.

"They make sure all helmets, uniforms and parachute/safety packs are good to go for each trip a pilot takes," Curls said. "Our jobs are to make sure health and safety are top priority and that the people we are outfitting have the materials they need to succeed."

The similarity in mission – focusing on health, safety and success – bonds these two groups in a way only they can fully understand. Last week's exchange built a bridge, illuminated powerful links and had an effect that will continue to be felt far down the line.

"When I'm done with my career, there is a civilian side that is comparable to what I do," Stewart said. "It shows me that there is a place for me when I get out of the military. It might not be with the Commanders but there are organizations out there that have a place for doing the same thing that I do."

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