PRINCE SULTAN AIR BASE, SAUDI ARABIA –
Asking what an aircraft would do without an airfield, is like asking what USCENTCOM would do without Airpower. They may manage, but realistically it'd be an emergency landing waiting to happen.
The stability of the Southwest Asia theater is dependent on AFCENT’s Airpower and the aircraft, supplying that Airpower, are dependent on the partner nations’ airfields within the AOR.
The United States in partnership with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia currently operates U.S. Air Force aircraft under the command of the 378th Air Expeditionary Wing out of Prince Sultan Air Base.
Airman 1st Class Genavieve Rohling, an airfield management specialist assigned to the 378th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron, is one of a small flight of Airmen whose mission is to manage and upkeep PSAB’s runways, taxiways and parking aprons alongside their Royal Saudi Air Force counterparts.
“The main purpose of our job is to make sure any aircraft can efficiently arrive and depart safely and effectively,” said Rohling. “Our whole job encompasses the safety of aircraft.”
The 378th EOSS’s Airfield Management flight is responsible for checking and inspecting the airfield’s lights, marker signs and pavement for any discrepancies. Dealing with obstructions like wing tip clearances and keeping the runways clear of foreign objects and animals.
“I would say my job has a lot to do with preemptive actions,” said Rohling. “If we see a discrepancy we try to fix it before it gets worse. An airfield can’t be perfect but we try to make it as perfect as we can.”
Airfield management coordinates with RSAF to fix any airfield discrepancies found, the Air Traffic Control tower for barrier checks, and Transient Alert and the Air Terminal Operations Center for transient aircraft arriving and departing PSAB. They file flight plans for every USAF sortie out of PSAB and conduct airfield driver’s license tests for anyone stationed at PSAB that needs an airfield driver’s license.
“It’s kind of hard to keep track of everything we do,” said Rohling. “But I feel like all of it is important, because all of it combined is for the safety of the airfield, aircraft and Airmen that operate on each of those two.”
The flight develops, disseminates and monitors the handling of backup parking plans for follow-on forces and emergency response plans for inflight and ground emergencies.
“I’ve definitely appreciated the opportunity to work so close to the mission and with such a diverse group of AFSCs,” said Rohling.
No Airfield management means no airfield, no airfield means no aircraft, no aircraft means no Airpower and no Airpower means no deterrence of aggressors to regional stability. PSAB’s Airfield Management team may be small but they are part of a package deal crucial to the USCENTCOM mission.