With tsunami threats recently pervading the Asia-Pacific region, the 36th Wing here has been actively exercising its capabilities of providing evacuation support to neighboring bases while simultaneously accommodating some of the largest joint and coalition exercises in the region.
"This year the activity in the water has been pretty heavy so it seems every other week we received evacuating aircraft," said Master Sgt. Anthony Matthews, 36th Operations Support Squadron airfield manager.
The reception working group on Andersen AFB receives evacuating aircraft and makes sure the Airmen associated with those aircraft are accommodated. The group is made up of different operation and support units on base.
"It's more than just parking aircraft; it's making sure they have everything they need to do their mission until it's time for them to go back," said Maj. Nicole Fuller, 36th Logistics Readiness Squadron commander and reception working group lead. "We make sure that the Airmen have a place to sleep, eat and have cars to drive if their maintainers need to go to the flightline to fix the aircraft. We also take care of their cargo and provide them with support equipment that they need to sustain their mission while they're here."
Initially, the base the evacuating aircraft are from will work with their Installation Deployment and Reception Center. The personnel from the originating base deploy their evacuating aircraft and personnel, then contact the destination base and inform them the numbers of incoming personnel, aircraft and equipment.
"The process is seamless when we know the numbers," said Fuller. "With this information we can prepare to receive and take care of the evacuating aircraft and personnel during their time on Andersen."
After the information has been received, the 36th LRS divides the tasks through a worksheet consisting of the needs of the evacuees. The corresponding units then check-off their designated tasks.
One of the first units notified after receiving an evacuation support request is the 36th Force Support Squadron. The members of the sustainment services flight are responsible for making sure the Airmen associated with the evacuating aircraft are accommodated.
"We do everything to make sure they get their nutritional needs and are bedded down," said Capt. Jesse Calland, 36th FSS sustainment services flight commander. "Everyone who transits through this base goes through us for lodging. We try to keep personnel in the best conditions possible. Our two-person reservations team supports all the accommodations."
During Valiant Shield 2012 there were no availabilities on base. The sustainment flight searched off base and worked out reservations at approximately 14 hotels. In September, 2,400 reservations were made in order to support the exercises and the evacuation.
With the Airmen accommodated by the 36th FSS, the 36th OSS situates the aircraft by providing the planes with spaces on the flightline.
Multiple factors are taken into consideration when parking aircraft: different air frames, missions, circles of safety, protection levels and additional issues. The 36th OSS takes all of these factors in consideration when providing the evacuees a slot on the flightline, especially when there are a significant number of airframes already present that was the case when Kadena Air Base, Japan evacuated their aircraft here during Valiant Shield 2012.
Additionally, 36th OSS provides evacuating aircrews with airfield driving training and vital flightline information. The unit accomplishes this through a "windshield tour" that shows Airmen the flightline layout, from designated parking spaces to areas affected by activities like construction.
"We also make sure we train the incoming individuals on airfield driving," said Sergeant Matthews. "They need to know what is currently happening on the flightline so that they can be safe and proficient while they are here."
The 36th OSS has more than 60 million square feet of real-estate to work with; however, with large-scale exercises like Valiant Shield, the unit works even harder in order to make sure that all the operations can coexist on the flightline.
"Aircraft heavy exercises like Valiant Shield and real-world scenarios simultaneously occurring test our creativity and the extent of our capabilities, but we'll always make it happen," said Matthews. "We've opened ramps that have been closed and worked with the 36th Civil Engineering Squadron to make sure the areas are structurally sound to hold heavy aircraft."
KC-135 Stratotankers, C-130 Hercules, F-15 Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons and U.S. Navy's P-3 Orions and A-3 Skywarriors are some of the airframes that have taken refuge on Andersen.
With the aircraft situated on designated parking areas, the reception team makes sure they are in serviceable condition and ready to return to home station once it is possible.
The 36th Maintenance Squadron prepares work areas for the incoming aircraft. They provide facilities and support: from establishing maintenance operations centers, which coordinate with 36th Wing and disseminate vital information to the maintenance team, to providing structural and mechanical maintenance support for the aircraft.
"We are responsible for setting up facilities for the incoming aircraft and maintainers," said Tech. Sgt. Alan Stutzman, 36th MXS program flight chief maintenance lead for the reception working group. "We have hangars that we divvy up to the evacuees. We schedule around the current maintenance that's going on when needed."
"The goal is to help them maintain their normal operations and keep their sortie generation up," continued Stutzman. "We posture for these planes to fly their sorties like they were at their home station."
With this year's heightened weather activity in the Pacific, Andersen's strategic location has become an ideal evacuation location for neighboring bases in the Asia-Pacific region.
"We're on American soil, not much coordination is needed to land here," said Major Fuller. "Beyond that, we have ranges available to their pilots to continue their training. We have a huge ramp and resources to accommodate them. With the proper coordination we can have all these resources lined up for them the moment they arrive."
Though accustomed to providing support, having evacuations coincide with large-scale exercises like Valiant Shield have tested the units' capabilities. Such have proven that at times of emergency, the 36th Wing will always deliver and provide a mission-conducive haven for service members and the Department of Defense's valuable assets.
Article by Airman 1st Class Marianique Santos, 36th Wing Public Affairs