Airfield Management keeps mission flying
By Staff Sgt. Levi Riendeau, 30th Space Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 16, 2011
VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- It's a long runway but someone's got to take care of it.
That's where the 30th Operations Support Squadron's Airfield Operations Flight Airfield Management team comes into play.
Responsible for Vandenberg's three-mile runway, one of the largest in the Department of Defense, Airfield Management works every day to upkeep what might be the defining feature of most Air Force bases.
"It's the main thing in the Air Force. Without the airfield, you couldn't land aircraft; you couldn't support any types of missions," said Master Sgt. Bruce Gunther, the 30th OSS airfield superintendent.
With a predominantly space-oriented mission, Vandenberg doesn't see much aircraft on a day-to-day basis, hitting an average of 15 to 20 aircraft a month.
However, not having any assigned aircraft is not the main point, said Gunther. "We have an airfield that we have to maintain to support any operations."
The Airfield Management team performs several of the same operations as a base with an active flying mission.
The beginning of their day is spent inspecting the airfield and making sure it holds up to the Air Force standard.
"The airfield has to be up and running so that an aircraft can land and depart safely," said Senior Airman Kristin Bethany, a 30th OSS airfield manager.
The team reviews everything from broken equipment and cracks in the flightline to quantity and types of wild animals that get on the runway. They even go so far as to chase the birds away the best they can, chasing them in a truck while honking the horn.
"With those birds, any one type of accident would be huge. And if we could prevent that before it occurs, it would be beneficial," explained Bethany.
Their efforts are all part of keeping a running airfield at Vandenberg. Without a running airfield, missile and rocket components could not be flown in, which would have an impact on the base's space mission.
If there .as no airfield, incoming aircraft would have to land at an outside airport, explained Bethany. "This is a one-stop shop; it limits the amount of time it takes to drive from somewhere else."
In addition to providing support for aircraft delivering space parts, Airfield Management also provides a training area for other local military installations.
"Since we don't get a lot of aircraft it gives others who need training the opportunity to come through and get the training they need," said Bethany.
While providing an area to practice touch-and-go's for Navy, Marine and Air Force aircraft is the majority of the training, Vandenberg also provides a space for them to practice maneuvers as part of expeditionary training, explained Gunther.
Even beyond support of training, Airfield Management has the responsibility to maintain the flightline in the event an emergency situation arises even if the emergency is unrelated to Vandenberg's mission.
"It's a matter of time on any airfield," said Senior Airman Christopher McComus, a 30th OSS airfield manager. "That's why we stay prepared and do all of our training,"
Vandenberg also supports the Federal Emergency Management Agency for any type of natural disaster on California's Central Coast.
"We are one of the main hubs to provide any type of contingency support if a natural disaster were to occur," said Gunther.
The team has provided support in the past for Coast Guard sea rescue operations and more recently helped coordinate an approximately 34,000-pound delivery of boric acid in support of rescue operations for the Japanese tsunami earlier this year.
Staying prepared for these types of contingencies and the always uncertain future ensures that the Airfield Management team and their airfield are always ready for anything.