Small base, big mission: Morón Air Base enables the fight

Senior Airman Elizabeth Baker
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Aircraft are parked on the flight line at Morón Air Base, Spain, Oct. 4, 2016. With a unit of only 600 personnel, Airmen at Morón make up only 25 percent of that population. Team Morón is comprised of U.S. Airmen, Marines and Spanish air force members who operate together to keep wheels off the ground and in the fight. The 496th Air Base Squadron, a geographically-separated unit from the 86th Airlift Wing, provides a worldwide platform for air power. — Photo by Senior Airman Nicole Keim

MORÓN AIR BASE, Spain — In Sevilla, Spain, a small base is operating with a big mission: supporting military aircraft and personnel during contingencies so they can reach their destinations within Africa, Europe, and the Middle East. Morón Air Base is a special, flexible base which expands from a skeleton crew to fully-manned in order to support contingency operations whenever needed.
The 496th Air Base Squadron is a geographically separated unit under the 86th Operations Group at Ramstein Air Base. The 496th works as a team to support refueling tankers, along with all the personnel and cargo that come with them. Those tankers fuel fighter aircraft so they can reach their final destinations.
“We’re setting up an air bridge,” said Tech. Sgt. Justin Hairston, Air Base Logistics Flight Small Air Terminal manager. “There’s fighting going on and those personnel need close air support from aircraft. That’s directly what we’re supporting here.”
Tankers come with maintenance teams, cargo, and other support personnel. When a contingency arises, the men and women of Morón jump into action to support the aircraft and personnel who respond.
“We have to feed and house all those people,” Hairston said. “They need email and communication so they can do their job, and we provide that. Depending on what we’re supporting, we can go from limited hours to 24-hour operations; essentially we go from being here to keep the lights on to full contingency operations.”
Hairston explained how Morón is uniquely suitable for its supportive task.
“We’re close to Africa and Europe,” Hairston said. “That gives us rapid mobility, meaning we can get people to different areas of responsibility quickly.”
While other bases are capable of receiving aircraft and personnel, Hairston said those other bases have limited space and other priorities to focus on.
“Here on Morón we have a lot of open space,” Hairston said. “In fact, we have the largest runway within United States Air Forces in Europe. We’re flexible.”
Hairston explained that it takes no small effort to perform Morón’s mission.
“It takes about seven mini miracles to successfully support a group of airplanes and everything associated with them,” Hairston said. “It takes the ability to manage chaos. We’ve got the services team to receive them, the communication flight to take care of anyone who sends an email or communicates with the tower or an aircraft by radio, and the logistics flight to download and upload aircraft cargo. Everyone makes sure everyone’s supported. It takes that community to get it done.”
Morón’s personnel make global impact with their efforts. They enable missions such as the ongoing Operation Juniper Micron, in which the U.S. supports French efforts to combat terrorism in Mali. There are also U.S. efforts against militant groups like Boko Haram, an extremist Islamic organization which committed such crimes as kidnapping 276 female students. Other operations they have supported include Freedom’s Sentinel and Inherent Resolve, and the fight against ISIS continues. Throughout all these efforts, Morón is standing by and ready to support.