YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- On a particularly warm summer day here at Yokota, the 374th Logistics Readiness Squadron cryogenics lab Airmen welcomed the snow-white gas that poured out of the frozen metallic tube.
The cryogenics lab Airmen spent their morning providing liquid oxygen, LOX, and liquid nitrogen, LIN, to the 374th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and the 730th Air Mobility Squadron.
"Without cryogenics, planes wouldn't fly," said Senior Airman William Oppenheim, 374 LRS fuels mobility support technician.
Liquid oxygen, a pale blue, nontoxic, water-like fluid with a boiling point of -297 degrees Fahrenheit, is used as breathing oxygen for pilots when flying above 10,000 feet.
"In addition to providing the oxygen that pilots use to breathe, we also supply the liquid nitrogen used in fire suppression systems," said Tech. Sgt. Jay Pickle, 374 LRS NCO in charge of fuels mobility support.
Liquid nitrogen, another water-like fluid due to its colorless and liquid state, is also used to keep aircraft tires pressurized.
In addition to filling tanks full of LOX and LIN and ensuring they are prepped for transport at any moment, the cryogenics shop is tasked daily with battling wear and tear of LOX and LIN tanks and checking for material that could potentially be disastrous.
"If trucks that come onto our pad are leaking oil and we don't catch it, it has the potential to cause a dangerous chemical reaction," Pickle said. "We have to constantly be vigilant and take care of problems before they happen. Safety is our top priority."
Though constantly being on alert could be tiring for some, the challenging part of working in cryogenics comes in the form of information.
"The toughest part about working in cryogenics is becoming knowledgeable experts in our field," Oppenheim said. "We've continued to overcome this challenge with our on-the-job training as well as constantly reviewing and rereading regulations and technical orders. "The best part of my job is knowing that we keep the mission going."
So whether it's ensuring that our pilots can breathe thousands of feet in the air or supporting fire suppression systems with essential liquid nitrogen, it is clear that the cryogenics shop is vital to Yokota's mission.