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Airfield managers maintain flightline during Vigilant Ace 16

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Sutton
  • 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
During the readiness exercise Vigilant Ace 16, every participating aircraft requires a safe and functioning flightline in order to complete their mission-specific directives.

Airmen assigned to the 51st Operations Support Squadron airfield management flight are responsible for ensuring the flightline at Osan Air Base is safe, secure and in working order for the mission to be a success.

"We are out front for ensuring the flightline is maintained and ready to support the flying mission," said Staff Sgt. David Morales, the 51st OSS airfield management operations supervisor. "There are a lot of safety sweeps that need to be coordinated and completed regularly during the exercise."

These Airmen are responsible for multiple tasks and perform a wide range of specific duties during their 12-hour shifts.

"We need to know all the specific airfield systems, the lighting, the clear zones, communications and radio etiquette," Morales said. "But the most important job we have is to make sure the airfield is ready and secure for the pilots to take off and land safely."

Vigilant Ace 16, a large-scale exercise designed to test the combat capabilities and enhance the interoperability of the U.S. and South Korean air forces, has brought many extra aircraft and aircrew to the already busy Osan flightline.

"Airfield management plays a key role in our ability as pilots to safely perform our mission," said Lt. Col. Travis Ruhl, the 51st Fighter Wing inspector general and a 36th Fighter Squadron pilot. "Both from a safety and a combat perspective, they are the ones performing the sweeps to keep the flightline clear, which is essential to generating combat airpower."

Airmen are working longer, tougher hours during the readiness exercise and the added aircraft mean the airfield requires more attention, Morales explained.

"We have our usual squadrons flying extra missions and because of the exercise there are others as well, all flying both day and night," he said. "The airfield is extremely busy and we have to manage every aspect of it to succeed. The bottom line is that we are in this together and this kind of practice is good to really test how well we work together. It's all about teamwork."

Readiness exercises are designed to test the capabilities of every Airman during the allotted timeframe.

"We know this is an exercise but are very aware that the lessons learned during it may very well save our lives in the future," Morales said.