BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. --
Barksdale is home to the more than 65-year-old backbone of the United States’ strategic bomber force, the B-52H Stratofortress. There are numerous components that all work together to ensure this aircraft can take flight at any given time, but one office in particular is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the B-52s have a safe place to land and take off.
This office is the 2nd Operations Support Squadron airfield management office, who work day in and day out to provide the 2nd Bomb Wing with a reliable, capable and competent airfield environment.
“Every sortie, from training to combat, begins and ends on the airfield,” said Donald Baily, 2nd OSS airfield manager. “Without the airfield at Barksdale, the 2nd Bomb Wing would not be able to project worldwide combat power.”
The 2nd OSS airfield managers safeguard this asset by meticulously conducting frequent inspections of the airfield. They pay specific attention to the runway to check for damages in the cement and paint, foreign object debris, also known as FOD, or any other aspects that could harm the mission.
“Additionally, we must respond to emergencies that occur while in flight or on the airfield and work to diminish the conflict promptly in order to return the airfield to a full operational capability,” said Airman 1st Class Kayla O’Shea, 2nd OSS airfield management shift lead. “A good example would be when we use our Secondary Crash Net, which is a phone we have in our office that calls several agencies so that we can disseminate the information all at once.”
Alongside their inspections and emergency response actions, these Airmen have checklists to complete, phones to answer, information to gather and communications and coordination with other offices. Examples of these offices are command post, the air traffic control tower, flight safety, transient alert, the flying squadrons and the fire department, just to name a few.
An example of this communication and coordination are PPR’s (Pre-Permission Required) for transient aircraft or aircraft that aren’t assigned to Barksdale. Some of the requests are for aircraft that are engaging in contingency operations. Airfield management acquires all the information needed regarding that aircraft to be able to relay to others, which in turn guarantees fast and efficient responses from all parties involved. Ultimately, maintaining quick operations, O’Shea said.
“No shift is ever the same as the one before it,” O’Shea explained. “Some days, you can find yourself spending a lot of time staying in the office doing administrative duties and other days you can be on the airfield for the majority of your shift.”
Another duty and responsibility that these Airmen have is overseeing the airfield driving program, which is a platform designed to allow specially trained individuals the ability to drive vehicles inside the boundaries of the airfield.
“We ensure everyone has the appropriate training needed and has completed and passed all the required tests before issuing a license,” O’Shea said. “Airfield management will conduct spot checks for airfield drivers to confirm licenses are up to date and not in violation of any driving regulations. We may escort a driver off the airfield and revoke a license if we deem necessary.”
With all these duties and responsibilities, the Airmen of the airfield management team are another piece of the puzzle that ensures mission success and they know it.
“It is amazing to see the work I have put in as well as my team to provide support for hundreds of missions. Some days my job can feel minuscule, but when I take a step back and look at the bigger Air Force picture, I realize how important my work is, and it motivates me even more every day to strive for excellence,” O’Shea said. “I am proud to be an airfield management troop and serve alongside my fellow men and women in uniform.”
And at the end of the day, no matter the number of hurdles, challenges or tests that come their way, the Airfield Management office stands ready to take them on and help continue the 2nd Bomb Wing and Barksdale mission.
“By continuing the mission, these Airmen are helping give a sense of normalcy and steadiness to the local community,” Baily said. “Secondly, the operations conducted on Barksdale show to the world that even though major impacts are happening to our society, the U.S. Air Force is still in business.”