SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Navy parachute riggers used to only pack parachutes. Now they service, maintain and repair flight clothing, rubber life rafts, life jackets, oxygen-breathing gear, protective clothing and air-sea rescue equipment.
On an amphibious assault ship, these pieces of safety equipment are essential for surviving emergencies like fires and chemical attacks.
Recently, USS Boxer (LHD 4) got underway to conduct amphibious operation training exercises off the coast of Camp Pendleton. The ship's "paraloft," where emergency equipment is repaired, needed someone to help maintain on-board safety equipment.
Boxer staff called the Naval Air Station North Island Advanced Intermediate Maintenance Division (AIMD) for someone to help them out. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer R. Smith, an aircrew survival equipmentman, volunteered.
Aircrew survival equipmentmen, also known as parachute riggers, were used to only maintain parachutes in the past. Their primary tool was the sewing machine and they spent a lot of time learning how to use it and maintain it.
Today, "PRs" do more than rig parachutes.
Their contributions are much more extensive. However, their two-letter abbreviation is still "PR" for their old parachute rigger responsibilities.
"I deal with all aviation life-support gear. It could be anything from parachutes, survival slings or life rafts. It's gear that pilots or aircrew need to survive if forced down over land or sea," Smith said.
Providing Navy and Marine Corps pilots with proper and working safety gear requires that nothing be overlooked.
"Everything is by the book and about attention to detail," Smith explained. "As a parachute rigger, I know that aircrew and flight deck personnel can accomplish their mission, because I have provided them with the gear they need."
When Smith came to Boxer, she was ready to help out. The shop needed someone with experience and rank to make sure it could meet the demands of flight operations during recent training exercises involving Marine Reserves from the Midwest.
"I'm glad to be here. I have the expertise to run this shop, and I am glad I can help," said Smith. "Safety is very important, because the gear I work with may be used to save someone's life. So I ensure that myself and everyone else is doing their job safely," she said.
Being on Boxer has given her a broader perspective on her job. She got to see a variety of aircraft, learned about Landing Craft Air Cushions (LCAC) and how diverse the Navy is."You get stuck in one area, and you don't see the whole picture," Smith said.
Like many Sailors, Smith joined the Navy team undesignated. But she was willing to do anything the Navy had to offer and knew what she wanted when she saw it. Another appealing aspect of the PR rating was that it's a small community. "Were a close-knit family," Smith shared.
Being in a small rating also meant a faster advancement track and leadership opportunities. "In the PR rating you have the opportunity to be become a great leader," she said.
Safety is more than just an issue in the Navy, it's a job for PRs like Smith. Their job, even though it is done by a small community of people, has a great impact on the Navy.
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