Expeditionary group clears way for combat ops

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson
  • 407th Air Expeditionary Group Public Affairs
When the Airmen of the 407th Air Expeditionary Group received notification in mid-October that they would bed down an expeditionary fighter squadron, they didn’t spare a moment getting ready. 

For the group to meet the goal of generating, executing and sustaining combat airpower by early December for the newly-arrived U.S. fighter jets, every unit needed to work in sync as a team.

“From the time we got notification, our hair was on fire getting everything prepped,” said Maj. Jack Green, the 407th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander. “We identified the day that the [operation] was going to kick off and we built our timeline back from that. We knew that there were going to be a lot of nice-to-have items so we started a list and came up with 200-plus items on that list. We identified probably 25-30 critical items that if they did not happen, we would fail and we wouldn’t be able to accomplish the mission on time.”

One of the major challenges the team faced was not knowing what specific aircraft would arrive until shortly before the operation. This is because the joint forces commander requested a capability and the Air Force would have been able to fill it with more than one type of fighter aircraft. 

“This one in particular, we didn’t know until about a week out what exactly was going to come in,” said Capt. Kate Jacobs, the 407th Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron director of operations and installation deployment officer. “A lot of it is a dance between making sure that you are prepared to receive certain forces, but not preparing too much that you’re prepping for the wrong forces.”

As more information flowed, the individual units on base adjusted their operations to plan for the arrival of the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.

“I think it is pretty normal for all of us to be flexible and to adapt and to execute an order within a matter of days if that’s what needs to be done, so we just made it happen,” Jacobs said.

The 407th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron built the infrastructure needed to host the incoming unit. About 30 percent of the infrastructure currently on the installation did not exist prior to October 2016, according to Green.

Another example of the efforts put forth to prepare for the bed down is the amount of work done by the Air Force Central Command engineering and installation team, which has been forward deployed here.

The team installed over 10,000 feet of conduit and 8,000 feet of fiber optic cable connecting a 407th ELRS compound to the main base through six manholes and crossing two major roadways, according to Master Sgt. Tim McAlister, the AFCENT engineering and installation team chief.

“I’d like to say there’s been one outstanding unit, but to be honest with you that was probably the coolest part for this project, is everyone was fired up and everyone was pulling their weight,” Green said.

For Airmen across the base this was a chance to experience how their work directly impacts the mission. And because of their efforts the fighter squadron was able to fly combat missions in under 24 hours of their arrival.

“This was a perfect opportunity for everyone to see how we all work together to get planes in the air and drop bombs,” Jacobs said. “It is just an awesome orchestration of everyone working together to get a mission done”