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Their airfield, their domain

By Airman 1st Class Sydney Campbell 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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A quiet morning in the office is something to be cherished. 2nd Operations Support Squadron airfield management Airmen are ready to answer any phone call in preparation for an extreme emergency or a daily operation. Could the call be an inflight emergency? An unknown aircraft attempting to land?

Airfield management Airmen have to be on their toes because without their awareness and overall knowledge of the flight line, the 2nd Bomb Wing could not operate.

“We are the connecting point between the flight line and any office that comes into contact with it,” said Airman 1st Class Austin Sanders, 2nd OSS airfield management shift lead. “Without our office, Airmen would be impacted and the mission would suffer.”

Weather flight, the air traffic control tower, maintenance squadrons, safety, protocol and a few other shops get information from airfield management for various airfield operations.

“Anytime a distinguished visitor is scheduled to fly in, we notify protocol,” Sanders said. “Anytime there are too many birds on the flight line, we call safety. When we get information on a flight, we inform the tower.”

The Airmen not only deal with squadrons and units on base, but with anyone, or any aircraft, that needs to be on the flight line.

 “A flight plan is a piece of paper that breaks down every aspect of an aircrews plans while flying, where they are coming from, every point they fly over and their destination,” Sanders said. “Our office is informed on every plane that leaves this base, and anyone that wants to land here has to request it through our office as well.”

The flight line driving program, another airfield management area of responsibility, requires anyone driving on the flight line to be trained and made aware of the damages that can be caused by not following the guidelines set forth for flight line and aircraft safety.

“Properly trained drivers prevent accidents that could end in death,” Sanders said. “If we see someone abusing their privileges or being negligent, they can’t drive on the flight line anymore.”

With Barksdale’s flight line being almost 40 years old, its age occasionally shows with minor cracks that can create foreign object debris, or pebbles. Airfield management performs checks over the entire flight line multiple times a day to ensure that nothing can prevent the B-52 Stratofortress from performing its mission anytime, anywhere.

“We check the flight line every two hours,” Sanders said. “We check for wildlife that could impact aircraft, foreign object debris and other things that shouldn’t be on the flight line. The smallest pebble could get into an engine and ruin it. Our eyes are trained to look for those tiniest imperfections and fix them.”

While a pebble may not seem important, picking it up could mean the difference between life and death for various aircraft that Barksdale hosts.

“The airfield is our responsibility and we are held 100 percent accountable,” Sanders said. “Missing even the smallest detail could result in millions of dollars in damage to aircraft engines, or worse, casualties. We don’t have room to mess up, if we do the outcome could be detrimental.”

When emergencies do occur, airfield management is there to ensure they are handled accordingly while playing a key role in notifying the various agencies that need to know about any possible situations.

 “I remember one time two aircraft were getting ready to take off, one after the other, and as the first one started to take off a tire caught on fire. This could have been detrimental to base operations,” said Staff Sgt. Malcolm Bowditch, 2nd OSS airfield management supervisor. “However our office immediately called all the agencies that needed to be involved, to include fire protection, security forces and the civil engineer squadron.”

Once potentially hazardous situations are corrected, airfield management ensures the runway is up and running again with little delay.

“The runway is a huge tool for the Air Force,” Bowditch said. “It’s why we exists, to put aircraft in the air and carry out the mission. If the runway is not maintained and there is no accountability for what’s going on, then we wouldn’t be the lethal force that we are.”

Though disasters and emergencies seldom take place, airfield management is trained to respond quickly and efficiently.

“Anything can happen at any time,” Bowditch said. “We need to be prepared for any situation because no one ever knows what is going to happen. We need to make sure our guys understand their training and to expect the unexpected, that way when the unexpected happens, we are prepared.”