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Revitalizing the base during COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kenneth Boyton
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, new challenges have presented themselves to accomplish the mission and to host morale events, especially while in an austere environment.


But at Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, the 407th Expeditionary Support Squadron works day and night to ensure their mission moves as smoothly as ever, and that their deployed members are living as comfortably as possible.


“It’s a very diverse squadron and it’s not something you see at a most bases,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Brian Roub, 407th ESPTS logistics flight chief. “We have three very distinct functions: we have logistics, civil engineering and force support all rolled into one squadron. It’s kind of like we have a condensed (mission support group) here.”


Roub added that having multiple shops, like the Civil Engineer Flight and Force Support Flight, combined into one squadron makes things easier.


He explained that because they work together more often, communication is faster and easier, and he is able to understand how other units perform and function differently.


“This is knowledge I’ll be able to take back to (my home station) and understand my customers better with more fidelity and be able to speak their language,” Roub said. “We’re all in the Air Force, but we all have our internal languages that we speak within our career fields. So just picking up those little tidbits is very useful.”


Having the ability to work and communicate more effectively has allowed the 407th ESPTS to make major strides during the pandemic.


“At our Morale, Welfare and Recreation facility, we’ve been able to host a morale event every night,” said Staff Sgt. Thomas Monte, 407th ESPTS MWR non-commissioned officer in charge. “Even with the social distancing and other safety precautions in place, we made it possible for the Airmen, Marines, and coalition forces to have a more enjoyable and relaxing time here.”


Monte added that even though the MWR has to limit the number of participants due to safety restrictions, they’ve still been able to accommodate approximately 2,000 people.


“Recently, we had a Halloween BBQ and costume contest where we had about 250 people show up,” Monte said. “We’re also keeping the MWR open until 5 a.m. for people that want to watch Sunday Night Football. We’re doing everything we can to keep morale up.”


The 407th ESPTS hasn’t just expanded their hours at the MWR, but at other facilities around the base too.


Tech. Sgt. Shawna Holwell, 407th ESPTS non-commissioned officer in charge of the dining facility, praised her team for their ability and willingness to adapt to the COVID-19 circumstances.


“We had an influx of people who were entering the base go into quarantine as a precautionary measure,” Holwell said. “We opened up an additional kitchen closer to the area, called Q-Town, and also worked out of there. We made food, boxed up individual meals, and ensured they were distributed in such a way that there was minimal risk.”


She added that her team’s work didn’t stop there. They reopened the self-serve salad bar, implemented a dine-in option while keeping social distancing in mind, and extended breakfast hours on Sunday so people can sleep in.


“We deep-clean every night, getting under rugs and cleaning anything and everything,” Holwell said. “We have a good team. Our other country nationals, contractors and workers make it easy; they put their heart into it.”


Another major player in keeping the base populace happy is the 407th Civil Engineer Flight.


“It’s our job to keep the base up and running,” said Senior Airman Matthew Jahja, 407th ESPTS water and fuel systems maintenance journeyman. “We make sure the water heaters, toilets, sinks, sewage systems, water supply and more are working. It means 24-hour operations for the flight.”


Jahja added that getting resources is taking longer than normal, which is something they need to make up for and work around.


“Having different shifts with different roles and responsibilities plays a big part in making sure we get all the jobs done,” Jahja said. “Even with less resources and COVID, we are still able to find a way through and make it work. It’s been tough, but we can do it. We are doing it.”


A combination of dedicated Airmen operating within the unique structure of the 407th ESPTS, coupled with the insight the teams learn from working so closely with one another, has allowed the squadron to continue to thrive as Jaber’s backbone and advance the support mission.


Maj. John Stegall, 407th ESPTS commander, praised his team for their tireless work ethic and adaptability.


“There are plenty of things that we need to work around or work through, and these Airmen find a way to solve a problem, to create a solution,” Stegall said. “Our Airmen are amazing and I would be proud to serve with them in the future.”