AL UDEID AIR BASE, Qatar --
Covering an airfield with “billions and millions of dollars of aircraft and facilities” is the culmination of Master Sgt. Larry Furlough’s entire career in airfield management.
He oversees the airfield at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, under the 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, to include airfield sustainment projects, which encompass Qatari projects for future building, current construction projects and pavement contracts; executing the wing commander’s air tasking order missions through flight planning; and actively maintaining the airfield.
“Planes cannot move from their parking spot safely if we don’t inspect and check every piece of pavement they operate on,” he said.
Furlough characterized his job as a melting pot of civil engineering, air traffic control and command post. They work alongside Qatari forces for flight planning and construction projects, as well as forecast future projects on a daily basis to ensure continuous operations within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
“This airfield is kind of the belly button for the AOR with so many aircraft types and so many missions being operated out of this space,” he said. “So, to end on one of the biggest bases in the AOR means a lot to me. To have my last deployment be managing an airfield versus sitting in an office means a lot. And being able to get out and teach Airmen every day means a lot.”
Furlough has been in the Air Force since 2004 and was inspired to teach when he became an airfield management instructor for their schoolhouse at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. He did not volunteer for the position, but found that it changed his entire outlook on the military.
“That was a big growth period for me,” he reflected. “As a non-volunteer instructor, you get put into something you didn’t choose to do. But, after being able to hear so many different Airmen’s stories, being an instructor grew on me. I had a bachelor’s degree in aeronautics, but after teaching, I earned my master’s in education. They made me want to be a teacher.”
A big part of his job in teaching the Airmen deployed to Al Udeid AB is helping them to find ways to make quick decisions and problem-solve using sometimes unorthodox solutions. A situation his Airmen encountered involved either moving a construction team off of a runway so an aircraft could land and park safely, or land the aircraft without moving the team, but not be able to park it. Young Airmen had to make that decision to move the construction team themselves rather than relying on a senior noncommissioned officer to do so, which is one of his favorite parts of the job.
“This is one of the few jobs in the Air Force that gives responsibility to young Airmen,” Furlough said. “In every other job that I've witnessed, you have to be an NCO to hold the responsibility that this job holds. A lot of the decisions that we make come from technical orders and other guidance, but a deployed environment can also require quick thinking, and the ability to constantly prioritize life and safety. My role is showing them as much as I can to prepare them for the future, and impress on them the impact their actions have on the wing and at major command levels.”