Getting the job done: Whiteman AFB Airfield Management

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Christina Carter
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

One of the most important features of any Air Force Base is the airfield.  Airfields allow aircraft to take off at a moment’s notice to maintain readiness and demonstrate the combat capabilities of the Air Force.


At Whiteman Air Force Base, the 509th Operation Support Squadron Airfield Management Office, works to ensure the safety of the aircraft and personnel on and around the airfield. 


“We are responsible for all of the airfield,” said U.S. Air Force Airman Stephen Taborn-Walker, 509th OSS airfield management operations coordinator. “Our primary focus here is the B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and making sure that everything is safe for them to take off and land.”


Along with maintaining the airfield, airfield management is also responsible for the maintenance of the runways, taxiways, lighting and other airfield systems. They also perform in-depth inspections on the condition of the runway and taxiways, and work with pilots to ensure a safe and effective environment for personnel and B-2 operations.


“Our expectation for everyone in the shop is to always be professional and courteous to all customers while giving 100% effort in all that we do,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Christian Fuller, 509th OSS airfield management operations supervisor. “Whether it’s conducting airfield inspections, processing requests from aircraft that aren’t assigned here, or helping a pilot file a route in his or her flight plan.”


U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Enya Johnson, 509th OSS airfield management operations coordinator, has been at Whiteman AFB for three months and says each day can be very different all while doing the same tasks.


“We do some of the same things like pick up the primary alert phone, send out weather notifications, input flight plans and perform airfield inspections,” said Johnson. “While completing each task there are different things that can happen, such as in-flight emergencies or issues during our routine checks. Things can change at a moment's notice and you need to always be prepared and able to keep the mission going.” 


The airfield inspections and checks are an important part of the daily work for airfield management. 


“We are mandated to do inspections every day, and we perform additional checks every three and a half hours to make sure nothing has changed,” said Johnson. “An inspection is in-depth and takes longer, while checks can be as quick as five minutes.”


Typically the airfield inspections can take an average of one to two hours to complete. During which the airfield managers ensure the airfield is clear of debris that can damage the aircraft, the pavement is in good condition, the signs and markings are not faded, and they also ensure the lighting throughout the airfield is working properly.  


Some checks are communicated by Air Traffic Control when the tower suspects possible debris or other problems on the runway or taxiways. 


“Teamwork is the key to success in order to get the mission done here at WAFB; whether it is conducting airfield checks and inspections or filing flight plans for the aircraft,” said Fuller. “Without teamwork and successful communication, airfield management could cause mission delays or impact safety operations for both pilots and other personnel out on the airfield.”


Communication, both within airfield management and with the other agencies, plays a big role in ensuring mission success and safety. 


“Some of the other agencies that we work with are the radar approach control facility, the tower, command post, the fire department, wing safety, transient alert and the United States Department of Agriculture,” said Taborn-Walker. “Working with these other shops gives us the unity we need to get the mission done.”


Whiteman AFB Airfield Management Office handles multiple responsibilities from managing the entire airfield to coordinating emergency management responses. The runway and the team that is tasked to maintain it are critical to all air operations and ensure the B-2 is prepared to execute strategic nuclear operations, lethal global strike and combat support...anytime, anywhere.