Airfield Operations: putting aircraft in the sky

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman David Bernal Del Agua
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
To keep air power refueled, one flight has to get the KC-135 Stratotanker from the ground to the sky.

Once the aircraft has been prepared and given the 'good to go' to fly, the 22nd Operations Support Squadron Airfield Operations Flight takes over.

The flight is divided into three sections, with each one having their own Air Force specialty code.

"There are three different career fields, and one can't do the others job," said 1st Lt. Hollis Troxel, 22nd OSS AOF commander. "We have a really good team here and working together to keep the airfield open is our primary mission."

During preparations to assume the KC-46 Pegasus mission, Airfield Operations is evolving to support that mission as well as the KC-135 mission, said Troxel.

One of the three shops is airfield management, which is in charge of making sure the runways are within standards for aircraft to take off and land.

"We're the ones who coordinate to get repairs done to the flightline, and we're responsible for opening and closing areas [on the flightline]," said Senior Airman Joseph Creamer, 22nd OSS airfield management shift lead.

Airfield managers constantly patrol the flightline, and if they find areas that need repairs, they call the appropriate unit.

For example, airfield management and the 22nd Civil Engineer Squadron are working together to repair the concrete on the flightline.

Another probably more recognizable part of airfield operations is Air Traffic Control because they are at the forefront of aircraft taking off and landing.

"Our job is to get [the aircraft] from the ground to the air and back as safely as possible," said Senior Airman Bailey Hahn, 22nd OSS air traffic controller. "We have to be flexible while still maintaining the ability to do our job safely."

The mission of Air Traffic Control is to provide technically adept ATC services 24/7 in support of the 22nd Air Refueling Wing mission and local civil aviation requirements.

The last section of airfield operations is air traffic control and landing systems. They ensure communication systems between ATC and pilots work and repairs are made when those systems require it.

"We work on the radios that ATC use, the navigational equipment that helps the aircraft land in inclement weather and the meteorological equipment that's used to forecast the weather for the base," said Staff Sgt. Nathan Pritchard, 22nd OSS airfield systems craftsman. "It is rewarding to know that our job is vital, and it helps with making sure the aircraft get home safe."

Airfield operations is the biggest flight in the 22nd OSS with more than 50 Airmen coming together to ensure aircraft have a safe place to operate from.

"You can't just have airfield management, you can't just have ATC, and you can't just have ATCALS," said Troxel. "Together, we're able to support the McConnell mission, providing air refueling and global reach year round.