JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-Texas (AFNS) --
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AFNS) - As Hurricane Harvey relief efforts continue, battlefield Airmen instructors have joined in to assist airfield management operations at the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Incident Support Base at Joint Base San Antonio-Seguin, Texas.
The instructors are from the 350th Battlefield Airmen Training Squadron, which conducts initial battlefield Airmen training for the 37th Training Wing and Battlefield Airmen Training Group headquartered at JB San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
The team's mission on the ground is to safely manage the JB San Antonio-Seguin airfield by controlling and providing guidance to military and civilian aircraft entering and departing the field as part of the relief efforts, said Lt. Col. Steven Savell, the 350th BATS commander. Two combat controller-certified Airmen are on-site for around the clock operations, as well as a pararescue-certified instructor for internal medical support if needed.
"We're ready to augment FEMA with our combat controllers and help with air traffic control support during this response," Savell said. "Primarily, we'll direct air traffic in and out of the airfield, as well assist FEMA in loading and offloading supplies to help move traffic to where it's needed in the most efficient manner possible."
Another unique aspect to participating in a real-world humanitarian assistance relief effort so close to the unit's training base is the opportunity to allow pipeline battlefield Airmen students to get a first-hand look at what life in the field looks like during actual operations.
"Every day is an academic event," said Chief Master Sgt. Alan, an Air Education and Training Command staff member. "We are always learning and that's what makes this experience pretty unique for the students."
"This is such a complement to the intense training we get every day," said Airman 1st Class Alex, a 350th BATS student in the combat controller pipeline. "Being out here and seeing this in real time just gives me even more confidence as I prepare to graduate...next time won't be my first time seeing this type of situation."
Having the opportunity to help citizens impacted by the storm and seeing Airmen bring their unique capabilities to bear during this disaster response was a highlight for the 350th BATS commander.
"This is a rewarding mission, no question" Savell said. "To be able use our mission employment skills to serve the families and communities in Texas and Louisiana who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey definitely keeps us going."
Battlefield Airmen are the critical ground link between air assets and ground forces, according to Col. Ronald Stenger, the Battlefield Airmen Training Group commander. They are trained to operate as a ground component to solve ground problems with air power, often embedding with conventional and special operations forces. They also accomplish missions such as surveying a dry lake bed in Africa as an airfield, rescuing military personnel from behind enemy lines or calling in precision air strikes on enemies.
(Editor's note: In some instances, only first names were given due to operational security reasons.)