Airfield Management: Lives safety 24/7

  • Published
  • By By Senior Airman Nick Wilson
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
To keep the mission flying, it's vital to ensure Whiteman's aircraft have a safe flightline for landing and take offs -- especially in support of the Air Force's only B-2 Spirit wing. That's where the 509th Operations Support Squadron Airfield Management operations flight comes into play.

The safety of Whiteman's airfield depends on the coordination and expertise of a 15-man team of airfield managers who are responsible for facilitating safe and efficient operations on the flightline.

"We accomplish runway, taxiway, apron, hangar and support facility inspections a minimum of 12 times a day to ensure airfield safety is supplied and supported," said Senior Master Sgt. Todd Lewis, 509th Operations Support Squadron airfield manager. "We focus on a variety of inspection items ranging from bird and mammal activity, airfield pavement condition, airfield marking, signage and lighting conditions."

In addition to the daily inspections, the managers also accomplish an annual inspection on the condition of the airfield, which is sent to Air Force Global Strike Command and made into a set expectation for the following year. In support of the B-2 mission, managers at Whiteman have a unique responsibility compared of airfield managers at other Air Force bases.

"Regardless of the weather and road conditions, we don't get delayed reporting," said Senior Airman Alessandra Aceves-Harnden, 509th OSS airfield management shift lead. "We have to be here because it's essential that we're there for the B-2 so that nothing can stop it. We make sure that no matter what happens, our airfield is clear and ready for aircraft to take off at any moment."

Airfield managers, whether new to the Air Force or a senior non-commissioned officer, have a significant impact on whether Whiteman's mission fails or succeeds.

"Anything that happens out there is ultimately our responsibility," Lewis said. "At any given time, an airman 1st class could be in charge of our 1,400 acre airfield which houses more than $44 billion in aircraft and more than 1,000 personnel. Ask yourself how many other E-3s in the Air Force have that much responsibility. All the groups may have personnel and facilities that operate on the airfield each day, but in the end we are entrusted to look after it."

The heavy responsibility of being entrusted with running the flightline requires an extensive knowledge of items.

"We're trained on hundreds of items," Aceves-Harnden said. "We deal with everything on the airfield from flight operations, to safety, to lighting outages."

In addition to the numerous airfield management duties, airfield managers are responsible for the base's airfield driving program. To prevent runway incidents and safety mishaps, airfield managers ensure Airmen driving on the flightline are trained and certified biannually.

"We live safety 24/7; without it, people die," Lewis said.

Whether it is a safety inspection or a biannual driving test, the 509th OSS Airfield Management Operations Flight ensures Whiteman maintains a safe flightline and its aircraft are ready for flight at a moment's notice.