EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska --
While RED FLAG-Alaska is mainly focused on aircraft and ground troop combat maneuvers, the 354th Operations Support Squadron Airfield Management Flight ensures the flight line is safe and functional for exercise participants.
Their mission is to manage airfield operations to ensure a safe, efficient and effective airfield environment. By doing this, they prevent countless mishaps and accidents every day.
The flight’s responsibilities include checking the airfield for debris, damage, and wildlife, and ensuring all runway lights are functioning. They also manage the airfield driving program, ensuring those who drive on the airfield are qualified and know what they are doing, and logging flight plans to keep an accurate record of flying hours.
“We make sure the airfield is safe and ready for aircraft to use whenever they need it, ” said Senior Airman Zachary Rodgers, 354th Operations Support Squadron AMF shift lead. “For RF-A, the job is pretty much the same except at a much higher tempo.”
RED FLAG-Alaska is a big exercise with numerous variations of aircraft on the airfield, increasing the tempo of operations for the flight. To help ease the burden, a visiting unit will usually send one of their own airfield managers to augment with Eielson’s own team.
“Typically any type of exercise that brings a massive increase to the amount of aircraft that come to a base, we bring one of our own to assist with the host unit. With the amount of sorties we fly during RF-A, it could become extremely hard on the host unit without help,” said Tech. Sgt. Evan Stewart, 8th Operations Squadron Airfield Management RF-A noncommissioned officer in charge of flight planning. “This is my first RF-A and I didn't know what to expect at first but after seeing all the moving parts, to me, it’s like one big aircraft Tetris puzzle and it’s pretty astounding to watch my counterparts work and solve problems that pop up.”
For this exercise, some of the challenges the team faces are an increased demand for flight line driver’s licenses, an abundance of flight plans to log and some language barriers when working with foreign partners such as the Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force).
“During RF-A, our rise in tempo is probably the most challenging thing,” said Staff Sgt. Justin Cisneros, 354th Operations Support Squadron AMF NCO in charge of training. “If we need to do an emergency repair to the airfield it takes a lot of coordination from other units who are also busy with the exercise.”
Looking forward, the team will continue to assess, manage and keep the airfield in good condition to enable the 354th Fighter Wing to continue to train joint and international partners and project combat air power across the Pacific theater to maintain security and stability in the region.