Defending the base back home

Keeping the mission going

A U.S. Air Force emergency response vehicle assigned to the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron fire department responds to a simulated aircraft incident on the flight line during exercise Arctic Gold 18-1, Oct 27, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. As part of the exercise more than 300 Airmen went on a simulated deployment leaving many areas of the base undermanned, however, many parts of the base continue operations regardless of manning. (U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Eric M. Fisher)

Keeping the mission going

U.S. Air Force Airman Carly Abrams, a 354th Force Support Squadron food service apprentice, prepares breakfast Oct 27, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. After a large simulated deployment of Airmen from the base during exercise Arctic Gold 18-1, the remaining Airmen still conduct their day-to-day operations, which keep the base running as if fully manned. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eric M. Fisher)

Keeping the mission going

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Osmany Linares, a 354th Medical Group laboratory technician, draws blood from a patient Oct. 27, 2017, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. With more than 300 Airmen went on a simulated deployment for exercise Arctic Gold 18-1, Eielson’s at home operations continue despite the loss of manpower. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eric M. Fisher)

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --

A mission is defined as a specific task that a person or group is charged with accomplishing.

The 354th Fighter Wing’s mission is to prepare, deploy and enable Airmen; these are tasks which are accomplished no matter the circumstances. Whether the temperature is more than 50 degrees below zero or a large portion of the base is deployed in support of contingency operations, the mission must go on.

During Arctic Gold 18-1, the first of a series of exercises designed to ensure Airmen are “ready to fight tonight,” Eielson tested their ability to operate with a reduced force.

“According to the theatre plans, we push a number of our people out to support what’s going on in the theatre,” said Chief Master Sgt. Brent Sheehan, 354th FW command chief. “As a result of that, it decreases our capacity and capability at home, which always presents challenges.”

For this exercise, Airmen were removed from their sections for an extended period of time while their fellow Airmen stayed home and took care of “real world” operations.

“When we’re looking at developing plans to do anything in the Air Force, there’s a lot of thought and consideration that goes in to it,” said Sheehan. “We consider the fact that Airmen are gone supporting stuff going on in the world, but we have to maintain the operation at home station. There are mechanisms we start working to try and meet that need so the level of capability that normally exists with those forces can continue.”

Through the use of different techniques, units all around base did what was necessary to complete operations despite the manning deficit.

“With people deployed, home station personnel have to take a bigger role around the office,” said Staff Sgt. Blakely Hamilton, a 354th FW military justice paralegal. “Even though there is more work and people are out, our office can still function.”

AG 18-1 gave the 354th FW the opportunity to see what operating with less than ideal manning would look like.

“From commanders to the junior Airmen, there seems to be more enthusiasm than I was anticipating,” said Sheehan. “We still have a lot of work to do; this wing hasn’t done this type of exercise in 10 years. You have to practice this stuff, it’s just like preparing for a sporting event. If you don’t practice, you can’t expect to do it successfully. I think we’re doing as well as expected, maybe even a little bit better because of the interest and enthusiasm to do well.”

It also provided the base the opportunity to better prepare its Airmen in the event of a contingency.