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No setbacks expected during runway closure

by Staff Sgt. Andrea Knudson
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs

6/19/2007 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany (AFPN) -- Spangdahlem Air Base's runway closed June 15 and is scheduled to remain closed for repairs until mid-July.

Although the 52nd Fighter Wing will cease flying operations from Spangdahlem, the pilots and crews from the 22nd, 23rd and 81st Fighter Squadrons will deploy to other locations and continue to conduct training and other mission essential requirements.

Spangdahlem's runway is being repaired due to deteriorating conditions that, if not repaired now, could lead to an unsafe runway in the near future, said Lt. Col. Scott Bowen, the 52nd Operations Support Squadron commander.

"Along with repair of the runway, we are using this time to accomplish a number of other important repairs and improvements across the airfield that otherwise might not be accomplished for a while," Colonel Bowen said. "While the runway closure wasn't foreseen until late last year, the time will be well spent for airfield improvements."

The 22nd FS will be deploying to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., and is scheduled to return to Spangdahlem in early August.

"While we are at Nellis, we will be working virtually every day, flying [more than 20 sorties a day]," said Lt. Col. Matt "Nuttman" Chesnutt, 22nd FS commander. "We [will] have several flying weekends and weapons academics every Sunday.

"Lt. Col. Geoff Maki, 22nd FS assistant director of operations and project officer, and Maj. Karamo Hayward, 22nd FS ADO and assistant project officer, along with Lt. Col. Bartz Sykes, 22nd FS DO, and Capt. Kristian Thiele, 22nd FS weapons officer, have put together the best training for Iraq that is humanly possible, and we are going to take advantage of every opportunity to 'tune and focus' for our upcoming Air and Space Expeditionary Force so that we can bring everyone home and help the Army and Marines bring everyone home, too," Colonel Chesnutt said.

Virtually all assigned and attached 22nd FS pilots and more than 245 maintenance and support personnel will be deploying, Colonel Chesnutt said. They are scheduled to maintain a pretty hectic schedule with flying jets from Spangdahlem AB to Nellis AFB, moving equipment and setting up facilities, supporting testing for the F-22 Raptor, F-16 and F-15 Eagle while also supporting the weapons school and the Adversary Tactics Group.

Additionally, the Big 2-2 (F-22) will be flying in Green Flag West, a close-air-support exercise supporting the U.S. Army's National Training Center, and participating in Mohave Viper, a Marine Corps close-air-support exercise. In total, the fighter squadron will be dropping about 150 bombs, about half of which are live weapons, the colonel said.

The 23rd FS's will deploy several "Hawks" in the next year as well as relocating to Buechel Air Base for the runway closure, about 20 miles from Spangdahlem.

"The 23rd FS, along with the 23rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit and many support agencies will deploy F-16s to Buechel where we will continue to train and prepare for our upcoming AEF deployment," said Lt. Col. Steve Vlasak, the 23rd FS commander.

The "Hawks" from the 23rd FS will cut back their flying hours, which will allow Airmen more time with their families and will pose less of a burden when their deployments ramp up.

"Due to logistical constraints, we will fly less sorties at Buechel than we would normally fly at Spangdahlem," Colonel Vlasak said. "While this will hamper our flying upgrades and AEF preparation, the training limitations are balanced by less time TDY for our Airmen. Travel time to and from Buechel will make the days longer, but evenings and weekends will be spent at home with friends and family.

"The 23rd FS and 23rd AMU, along with the 22nd and 81st FS will spend a lot of time deployed over the next 12 months, so this opportunity to stay at home while still accomplishing our training will help lessen the strain caused by our future deployments," Colonel Vlasak said.

The German air force personnel at Buechel have been very accommodating and he, along with the 52nd Operations Group and wing leadership, greatly appreciate their efforts to make their deployment a success.

The men and women of the 81st FS, along with their commander, Lt. Col. Keith McBride, took off for Royal Air Force Lakenheath in England.

The 81st FS will conduct more than 650 sorties, using approximately 50 live maverick missiles, 43,000 30-millimeter rounds, as well as train two British army brigades before they deploy downrange, Colonel McBride said. They will also conduct combat search and rescue training, among a variety of other operations scheduled during their deployment.

More than 140 members in all from the 81st FS, along with their A-10 Thunderbolt IIs with associated equipment and personnel are scheduled to deploy, sustain and redeploy during the runway closure. The fighter squadron hopes to maximize United Kingdom ground/air assets training and to continue building a relationship with the 56th Rescue Squadron and establish other Lakenheath contacts.

While the 52nd FW has made provisions to continue flying its fighter aircraft at other worldwide locations, the biggest impact will be the loss of Spangdahlem as one of Air Mobility Command's primary European hubs, Colonel Bowen said.

"The good news is that AMC was informed of this loss well in advance and has made the necessary adjustments," the colonel said. "Additionally, it should be noted that we have elected to conduct the runway repairs during the good-weather summer period ... first, to shorten the repair time with accommodating good weather, and, second, to minimize the loss of our Category II Instrument Landing System, a critical procedure that Spangdahlem possesses that allows AMC aircraft to land at Spangdahlem in extremely poor weather."

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