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Dyess AFB flight line maintains 24-hour operations during pandemic

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt Daniel Barnhorst
  • 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many businesses and facilities to be closed, that does not include the airfield at Dyess Air Force Base. The 7th Operational Support Squadron’s Airfield Operations Flight has continued 24-hour airfield operations for both local and transient aircraft, or aircraft not assigned to Dyess AFB.

Maintaining an operational airfield is critical for the transport of supplies, personnel and weapons around the globe for five major commands, according to Capt. Carlos Flores, 7th Operations Support Squadron airfield operations flight commander. In fact, Dyess AFB supported over 4,600 flights during the pandemic, including 20 different aircraft models transiting between 35 bases and airports.

Many of the 4600 missions were C-130 humanitarian and supply missions carried out by the 317th Airlift Wing. One of the most notable missions was evacuating the US Women’s Soccer team, which was stranded in Honduras after the Honduran Government closed its borders to prevent the spread of the virus. They picked up 30 of the players along with the coaches and staff and safely returned them to the United States.

Another historic mission during the pandemic was the Bomber Task Force carried out by the 7th Bomb Wing. Approximately 200 airmen and four B-1B Lancers deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, where they performed strategic deterrence missions in the Indo-Pacific region and supported the Pacific Air Forces’ training efforts with allies, partners and joint forces.

Dyess AFB is often the best choice for training missions because there are two landing zones and a drop zone available. Additionally, the Abilene, Texas, area generally has better weather for flying than many other locations.

To ensure Airmen safety, additional procedures were put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 when concerns about the virus were first surfacing in the United States. “The Airfield Manager and Deputy Airfield Manager immediately implemented single point entry to the facility, sanitation processes of the facility common areas as well as temperature checks,” Flores said. “We have established teaming concepts for workers to ensure the operations are not degraded in the event that someone from the section gets sick.” The airfield operations flight has also enforced social distancing, ensured that there are no large gatherings and established testing procedures for airfield drivers to monitor their health.

According to Flores, the team has also worked closely with command post, the logistics readiness squadron, maintenance from both wings and public health to establish decontamination procedures for aircrew and aircraft in the event of exposure.

“At Airfield Management, we’ve been keeping ops going 24/7 when many other agencies have been able to telework. As a result, we have seen alterations to our schedule,” said Senior Airman Robert Sykes, 7th Operations Support Squadron airfield management shift lead. Schedule changes were implemented in an effort to reduce the number of people working in a close area.

Sykes said the shift changes have not been too difficult on him personally, and the introduction of the new plans and procedures has been an interesting change from normal operations.

The hard work of Team Dyess Airmen in the air traffic control, airfield management, and radar, airfield and weather systems sections enabled real-world and training missions to continue despite the global pandemic, ensuring that Dyess AFB and the U.S. Air Force remain combat ready at all times.