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Airfield management keeps flightline mission ready

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Damon Kasberg
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Aircrews face a variety of threats as they conduct missions throughout Southwest Asia, but not all threats come from hostile forces. Runway damage, animals and vehicles on the flightline all pose a potential danger to aircraft during takeoffs and landings.


Members of the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron are charged with managing the airfield to ensure it’s mission ready.


“We’re responsible for the entire airfield,” said Senior Airman Maria Atondo, 332nd EOSS airfield management shift lead. “We handle all coordination with construction, flying operations that come in for transient aircraft and any sort of inflight or ground emergencies that occur. We’re also in charge of airfield pavements, lighting and markings.”


As part of their responsibilities, 332nd EOSS Airmen inspect the airfield throughout the day, keeping a keen eye out for anything that might obstruct operations or damage aircraft. Once issues are identified, they either handle the matter themselves or work with the appropriate organizations to resolve it.


“We coordinate with more than 13 agencies on a daily basis,” said Staff Sgt. Tiffany Padilla, 332nd EOSS NCO in charge of airfield management operations. “There are many different processes that occur on the flightline. Depending on these situations, we have to work with civil engineers, security forces, air traffic control, flying squadrons and the host nation to conduct repairs, deconflict, and prioritize the flying schedule and parking, all while maintaining a safe airfield environment.”


In an expeditionary environment the job can become more demanding for the airfield management team. Extreme heat and continuous sorties take a toll on the runway, creating potholes and debris, dangerous for aircraft as they taxi, take off and land on the pavement surfaces.


Seamless coordination with multiple Coalition Partners is another challenge they face, as not all nations follow the same operational procedures.


“Working at an airfield where we are not the senior airport authority can be a little challenging at times, especially when it comes to coordinating repairs,” said Tech. Sgt. Sarah Kramarius, 332nd EOSS airfield manager. “There can be language barriers. We work with four nations coordinating parking plans daily and repairing the pavement in between flying operations.


“My entire airfield management team has stepped up to the challenges out here and performs far beyond the normal operations we usually face at home station,” she added.

Going beyond their normal duties is exactly what the Airmen of the 332nd EOSS have done to keep aircrew safe. The task of ensuring the airfield is visible at night is normally handled by civil engineering Airmen, but because of manning it has fallen upon the airfield management team. They have placed over 350 solar lights along the runways, taxiways and ramps helping aircrews navigate at night.


“Without a properly maintained airfield, it is impossible to accomplish our flying mission,” said Lt. Col. Nathan Shelton, 332nd EOSS Commander and F-15E Strike Eagle weapon systems officer. “If there are holes in the runway, it could blow a tire or tear off the landing gear with catastrophic consequences. Foreign object debris from failing concrete and asphalt could damage motors, leading to engine failure, preventing us from completing our combat missions or, worse yet, causing a crash.

“Airfield management has done an excellent job coordinating surface repairs to keep runways and taxiways open and FOD free, repairing runway and taxiway lighting that help aircrew find the airfield at night and taxi safely,” he continued. “If it wasn’t for them monitoring the airfield and coordinating with our civil engineer squadrons and host nation to help keep this place operational, we wouldn’t be able to defend our U.S. and coalition soldiers or eliminate threats.”