Small base has big mission
Release Date: 1/21/2004
by Tech. Sgt. Brian Davidson 455th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
1/21/2004 - KARSHI-KHANABAD AIRFIELD, Uzbekistan (AFPN) -- At first glance, the little-known airfield in Karshi-Khanabad, often called K-2, appears to be nothing more than a sleepy, little whistle-stop for aircraft supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
For airmen assigned to the 416th Air Expeditionary Group here, and the aircrews they support, the base and its mission represent an important role in winning the war on terrorism.
Situated on a wind-swept plateau in the southwest corner of the former Soviet state of Uzbekistan, K-2 is a relic of the Cold War, but a place hundreds of deployed airmen and soldiers now call "home."
Although seldom mentioned in the news, K-2 is becoming well known by military aircrews. The base supports countless heavy-airlift and transport aircraft, and before an aircrew even touches down on the base's short, crumbling runway, an orchestra of people is already on-hand to welcome them.
Teams representing transient alert, the command post and combat weather anticipate the needs of all visitors and aircraft. When an aircraft taxis to a stop, forklifts are standing by to off-load cargo and fuel trucks are close behind, waiting for their cue.
Passengers are greeted by a base representative before they even step off the plane and then are ushered to a bus, parked just a few feet from the aircraft.
If the airfield crews are the orchestra, then the conductor is Col. Tim Vining, 416th AEG commander.
Colonel Vining often can be found around the flightline mingling with his people. He has become known for his love of photography, and many supervisors here and back home receive regular e-mail from Colonel Vining with words of praise and photos of their airmen hard at work.
Deployed from Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., the colonel is fiercely proud of his people's accomplishments. He challenges those under his command to do their part in contributing to the base's reputation for excellence.
"We work together, Army and Air Force, to accomplish a vital mission," he said. "It doesn't matter what service tag is on your uniform, we are all here for a common purpose."
For the crew of a C-17 Globemaster III from McChord Air Force Base, Wash., K-2 is an oasis in the barren, rocky landscape that is common to this part of the world.
"Landing here is always a relief when flying missions that often last 26 hours and longer," said Maj. Bob Rowe, a C-17 pilot with McChord's 97th Airlift Squadron. "These people are always right on it. This is my sixth time here, and we are always provided everything we need, without even having to ask. They even help clean the aircraft."
The 416th AEG airmen have set records within the region for quick-turning aircraft, and have even had a C-17 fueled, serviced, cleaned and back on the runway in about 40 minutes.
Like finely tuned instruments, each duty section must play in harmony with the others to get the job done. While crews are working aircraft, a three-man weather team is providing eyes-forward information for the aircrews.
"We take the overall weather forecast for the region and tailor it to each specific crew and mission," said Staff Sgt. John Rogers, a 416th AEG weather craftsman deployed from Vance AFB, Okla.
Working 24-hour operations, the weather crew provides two-day forecasts to the base's rescue units, and on-the-spot forecasts to transient crews.
The aircrews never have to walk more than a few steps to find the support they need. After receiving their weather briefing, the command post staff is on-hand with a quick-reaction checklist.
"We update command staff on all events, and help coordinate all maintenance activities," said Senior Airman Olando Brown, a 416th AEG Command Post technician deployed from Kadena Air Base, Japan. Airman Brown juggles the needs of aircraft on the ground while working three steps ahead and projecting the needs of inbound aircraft.
Many airmen here are due to return home soon, but continue to focus on the tasks at hand. This is true for Staff Sgt. Lance Harris, deployed from Holloman AFB, N.M.
"It's not just a matter of getting the job done," he said. "It's a matter of doing the job in the best way possible and leaving things better than we found them."
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