BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Since the early 1930’s, Barksdale has persistently progressed from its humble beginnings as a cotton field in the middle of Northwestern Louisiana, to its current embodiment as the nerve center of the nation’s deterrent force.
Barksdale Airmen take care of the mission, but who takes care of the base? The unit responsible for the sustainment and maintenance of $5.9 billion worth of infrastructure on the installation is the 2nd Civil Engineer Squadron operations flight.
“Our mission is critical to ensure the installation’s mission is accomplished,” said Senior Master Sgt. Courtenay Sartain, 2nd CES operations flight superintendent. “Our top priority is to keep the airfield ready to launch and receive aircraft. Our technicians ensure that everything, to include pavement, lights, paint stripes, air conditioning, fuel systems and even vegetation and pest control, are within standards to enable our wing to take the fight downrange.”
There are four elements in the flight that work together to complete this objective. Those elements are infrastructure support, facilities, heavy repair and operations engineering. The infrastructure support element includes heating, ventilation and air conditioning, water fuel systems maintenance and pest management. Facilities personnel handle electrical systems, alarms and power production, while heavy repair manages pavement and equipment and structures. Finally, the operations engineering element includes the requirements and optimization unit and material control.
The operations flight is also a Primary Base Engineer Emergency Force, also known as Prime BEEF. That means they regularly plan to ensure they are ready for any scenario to operate, sustain or recover the base if the need arises. During the current public health emergency, the team has been able to come up with innovative ways to allow them to keep getting the job done.
“We have taken a steady approach to balancing the needs of the mission and trying to ensure the safety of our members and their families,” Sartain said. “With that, we limited the number of personnel allowed in each section so that we do not exceed the 10-person max. We have encouraged everyone who can telecommute and are being as creative with ‘bringing’ people in as we can. Maybe instead of them physically coming in, we use technology to our advantage. Telephone video is a great example of how we can get after problems. Additionally, we are trying to work outside as much as possible.”
Telecommuting has proven to be a good way for them to balance not only the safety and health of their Airmen but to help continue the base’s mission. Some of their accomplishments during this time are airfield maintenance, pothole repairs around the base, several roof leaks and work at the Child Development Center and Youth Center. They are currently coordinating with the 2nd Force Support Squadron to work on a project for extra rooms.
“We respond to the safety and welfare of high visibility facilities on the installation,” said Tech. Sgt. James Grabbe, 2nd CES pavements and equipment craftsman. “We just finished up with two crews closing out more than 20 work tasks between the CDC and the Youth Center to make the facilities safer for the children and staff. We are also working a team at the dormitories to ready 42 rooms in expectation there will be a large influx of Airmen from technical school.”
These projects may have brought challenges, but it isn’t anything the team can’t handle. In fact, to help get their jobs done faster, the teams are even working out of their comfort zones.
“Ops flight is all about a ‘one team’ attitude,” said Tech. Sgt. Dustin Holmes, 2nd CES structures NCO-in-charge. “My team working over at the dorms are working with other craftsmen within other sections to complete the work. For instance, we might have electricians help lay carpet to get these rooms up faster. Also, on our larger projects, we all must come together for planning and completing the work.”
The teamwork isn’t only shown within the flight itself, but throughout other units and squadrons around the base.
“We have teamed up greatly with several other offices around the base to ensure that we are supporting everyone that needs it. We have worked with security forces to make sure barricades were placed where needed,” Sartain said. “We have been in coordination with FSS since we are the contract officer representatives for grounds (mowing), refuse (garbage pick-up) and custodial (cleaning).”
“We have also supported the medical group with the layout of the new pharmacy pick-up line. Furthermore, we work with our inner squadron Emergency Triangle, EOD (explosive ordnance disposal), Emergency Management, and Fire Emergency Services,” Sartain added. “We must ensure they have everything in working order or the support they need to respond.”
Although the public health emergency isn’t an ideal situation for any, it is important to know that Team Barksdale is working together day-in and day-out to ensure that the Airmen, their families and the mission are safeguarded and will come out on top.
“Our team has heavy contingency deployment taskings experience, we’ve readied the base during inbound hurricane evacuations, we’ve responded to natural disasters, and we are now adding a pandemic response to our resume,” Sartain said. “I’m proud of our Airman. I’m proud to work beside each and every one of them. We thrive during hectic times. We aim for perfection to ensure we land on excellence.”