Only a few hours before sunset, a plane loaded with Airmen and cargo lands on a runway. Within hours they are staring at an open field, miles away from the initial runway. Their task is to make the field a base.
Teams from the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing used two bare bases in Africa and improved them into bases capable of supporting thousands of personnel and as many missions in less than a month.
“As I caught the first C-17 (Globemaster III) chock-filled with our (Contingency Response Group) Airmen and a team of 86th Security Forces Squadron defenders, I knew the mission was going to be a success, not because of the extensive planning or preparation or the support from back home but the way they epitomized the Airman’s Creed and a must-do attitude as they rolled off the aircraft exuding a warrior’s spirit,” said Lt. Col. Jason Herring, 435th Contingency Response Squadron commander.
The harsh environment combined with the isolation from approved food, water and fuel sources along with the need to provide their own security in an uncertain environment were just a few of the challenges they faced.
“I can’t say enough about the Airmen that deployed alongside me, their resilience, determination and their ability to innovate when faced with complex problems,” Herring said. “The success of this mission resides solely on the backs of those Airmen who wrestled through 116 degree temperatures, sandstorms, a lack of showers, bathrooms and laundry facilities for nine days, never complained and provided me with the honor of leading them. Being the squadron commander is the highlight of my career. I am extremely proud of the CRG warriors and the tireless efforts they put forward to spread airpower to the Central Africa region.”
All Airmen were required to be armed and wear helmets and flack vests in the summer sun. Yet even with the challenges they faced, several Airmen said they would do it again.
“When we got here, things did not line up like we had planned, but I would do this mission even with the eight days of baby wipes and bags,” said Master Sgt. Bryan Oyes, 435th Contingency Response Squadron expeditionary engineering NCO in charge. “This was the most austere I have done.”
Oyes was in charge of planning out the tent locations. He and the team took the challenges on, and it did not matter the career field, from maintainers to medics everyone grabbed hammers to build their shelters, work center and bathrooms.
“This is what we do; this is what the CRG does. And the entire team pulled together at every level,” said Tech. Sgt. Jeffery McReynolds, 435th CRS aircraft maintenance lead.
The teams came from a variety of AGOW units, including the 435th Contingency Response Group, 435th Security Forces Squadron, 435th Contingency Response Support Squadron and 435th CRS. They opened up the bases as part of the wing’s mission of providing expeditionary airfields on demand.
The Airmen of the 435th CRG come from all types of career fields and experiences to build bases, but once they establish essential facilities and operations, more specialized teams from around the Air Force come in to relieve them and continue the construction.
Having the ability to respond to such situations on short notice demonstrates U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa’s “Forward, Ready, Now” capability.
After improving the bases and turning them into a functioning bases, the AGOW returned home to Ramstein ready to be called upon to open other bases throughout Europe and Africa.