DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – --
An intense ringing tone projects from an emergency phone. Two Airmen receive the message of an emergency aircraft landing. One Airman rushes to the emergency response vehicle and heads to the runway as the other calls all first responders. Next, they ensure the runway is clear, as well as diverting any other landings. Their prior training keeps their nerves calm in a frantic hustle to communicate this landing to different base agencies. Last, the two Airmen watch as the aircraft coasts to the runway for a safe landing.
This is how Senior Airman Andrea Orozco, 7th Operations Support Squadron airfield management shift leader, described airfield management’s role in an emergency landing.
Communicating emergencies and surveilling airfield conditions: airfield management’s primary focus is to safeguard airfield conditions and operations.
In the event an in-flight emergency occurs, airfield management plays a key role in getting the aircraft from the air to the runway safely.
Airfield management prides themselves on the speed and accuracy of being able to communicate emergencies to first responders.
“The mindset we have is always being prepared for emergencies,” said Orozco. “We, along with the air traffic control tower, are in constant communication with the aircraft during an emergency. It’s also our job to make sure the runway is clear and first responders are notified.”
Even on non-flying days airfield management personnel are on the edge of their seats, ready for emergency response.
“If our aircraft aren’t flying, we’re here because other aircraft are still traveling through near air spaces,” said Staff Sgt. Nathan Hall, airfield management shift supervisor. “In the event of emergencies or changes in flight plans, we’re ready to provide a safe landing destination for military aircraft.”
Airfield management also monitors the flightline, runway, and all surrounding areas in fine detail. Thorough checks are conducted to prevent foreign-object damage and even so much as the grass height is regulated.
“We’re one of the few career fields that get to go past the runway and see the beauty of the flightline from a different angle,” said Orozco. “Whether FOD is found or not, we take our time during these checks to ensure overall safety.”
These FOD checks not only ensure the safety of flightline operations, but keep our runways safe for visiting aircraft.
Airfield management works with the 7th Bomb Wing Protocol Office to support distinguished visits. They organize all the services the visiting aircraft might need, such as refueling and maintenance. The 7th OSS has a path of red brick, called the “red carpet”, that distinguished visitors take to exit the flightline and enter the confines of the base.
Orozco said, “We always look forward to being some of the first personnel to welcome distinguished visitors on our red carpet.”
When not out on FOD checks or surveilling the runways, airfield management Airmen are found in the base operations building. From the outside looking in, different views can be made about career fields that require time behind desks and computer screens. It’s the role that’s played behind these desks that make them important. The fact that airfield management is on standby for emergencies and ready to communicate to first responders with speed and accuracy is what makes them critical to the mission.