JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- The deafening roar of an F-22 Raptor or dozens of paratroopers dotting the skyline behind a C-17 Globemaster III portray fearsome capabilities of airpower, but this airpower simply cannot be projected without support.
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the 3rd Operations Support Squadron (OSS) Airfield Management team has been adopting a “new normal” mentality as they operate in Health Protection Condition (HPCON) CHARLIE and incorporate protective measures to ensure the execution of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson essential flying missions.
“A global pandemic is a perfect opportunity for our adversaries to try to exploit any weaknesses in our military’s capabilities,” said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. James Gerdts, 3rd Operations Support Squadrond Airfield Management deputy airfield manager. “Keeping the airfield open is key to ensuring our adversaries understand that our resolve has not faltered, and that we stand ready to respond anywhere, anytime.”
The bulk of the team’s missions have included the movement of supplies and personnel overseas and across the globe, flights to ensure and maintain currency of pilots and aircrew to maintain combat lethality, and real-world launches of alert aircraft to protect safety and sovereignty of U.S. airspace from foreign intruders.
“Our capability to support real-world requirements and maintain currencies in support of the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region mission has not been affected,” said U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Devon Duncan, 3rd OSS Airfield Management shift lead. “Our airfield continues to ensure we maintain our strategic capabilities, posture and combat lethality when called upon.”
Airfield management has worked to mitigate the spread of the virus by reducing the amount of airfield checks that require personnel interaction with other operators on the airfield.
“The professional Airmen of airfield operations have implemented protocols to prevent the spread of the virus while never stopping their crucial mission to keep the airfield open and operating,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. John Krellner, 3rd Operations Group deputy commander. “This has been pivotal for the readiness of our Airmen, transportation of vital cargo, and for our 24/7/365 homeland defense mission.”
The team is maintaining social distancing, wearing face masks, sanitizing each workstation every shift and reducing the amount of interaction they have with one another. Additionally, customers are asked to submit all documents digitally when able, in an effort to limit the amount of personnel who transit their building.
“The ‘new normal’ will include better sanitation practices within our workplace to ensure we keep our health and safety a priority, even in the absence of a health crisis,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Darius White, 3rd OSS Airfield Management shift lead. “We will also work to maintain electronic submission on documents to airfield management, which will serve as a convenience to our customers and save time in their daily coordination.”