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Airfield management keeps flight line in check

Staff Sgt. Jerron Johnson, 51st Operations Support Squadron airfield management operations supervisor, uses a 12-gauge shotgun to fire off a bird dispersion round on the Osan Air Base flight line, Nov. 27, 2012. The rounds are used to scare birds away from the flight line, limiting possible aircraft mishaps. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)

Staff Sgt. Jerron Johnson, 51st Operations Support Squadron airfield management operations supervisor, uses a 12-gauge shotgun to fire off a bird dispersion round on the Osan Air Base flight line, Nov. 27, 2012. The rounds are used to scare birds away from the flight line, limiting possible aircraft mishaps. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)

Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Richardson, 51st Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of airfield management operations, checks for foreign object debris on the flight line at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 27, 2012. Richardson performs checks six to eight times daily to minimize possible aircraft damage. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)

Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Richardson, 51st Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of airfield management operations, checks for foreign object debris on the flight line at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 27, 2012. Richardson performs checks six to eight times daily to minimize possible aircraft damage. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)

Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Richardson, 51st Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of airfield management operations, and Staff Sgt. Jerron Johnson, 51st OSS airfield management operations supervisor, use the Bowmonk machine at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 27, 2012. The Bowmonk is used to test runway slickness when snow and ice is present. The test is conducted at all ramps and every 1,000 feet of the flight line. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)

Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Richardson, 51st Operations Support Squadron NCO in charge of airfield management operations, and Staff Sgt. Jerron Johnson, 51st OSS airfield management operations supervisor, use the Bowmonk machine at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Nov. 27, 2012. The Bowmonk is used to test runway slickness when snow and ice is present. The test is conducted at all ramps and every 1,000 feet of the flight line. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Craig Cisek)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Osan's airfield management team plays an integral role in keeping the flying mission going and the aircrew safe 24 hours a day.

The 51st Operations Support Squadron airfield management team works with a team of 10 personnel to take care of more than 9,000 feet of runway, taxiways and parking areas. This also includes coordinating all flight plans, responding to all in-flight and ground emergencies, and keeping the flight line free of foreign object debris that could be harmful to flying.

"Our job with airfield management is important because without an airfield, you don't have an air force," said Senior Airman Steven Ramos, 51st OSS airfield management shift leader. "We're the only authority who can close and open the airfield. The pilot can be waiting for us, so it's a lot of stress to make sure we get every inch of the airfield FOD free."

Every day, the team performs various inspections and checks to ensure pilots are safe for take-off and landing.

"We do a thorough airfield inspection in the morning and again at night with at least six to eight additional checks throughout the day," said Tech. Sgt. Elizabeth Richardson, 51st OSS airfield management operations NCO in charge. "During the inspections and checks we are looking for FOD, a damaged runway, unauthorized vehicles, lighting and anything else that could damage the aircraft."

The team is faced with a huge responsibility for a flying mission that never stops. The 51st Fighter Wing is the most forward deployed base in the Air Force, encompassing two fighter squadrons ready to provide combat ready forces with A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and F-16 Fighting Falcon's that need to be ready at a moment's notice.

"We have a lot to look out for out here," said Staff Sgt. Jerron Johnson, 51st OSS airfield management operations supervisor. "Aircraft like F-16's suck up anything loose on the runway like a vacuum and can cause so much damage."

The team also works to manage the bird population near the aircraft with dispersion and depredation. Bird cannons feature a wounded bird noise and loud bangs to scare them away, she explained. As another dispersion technique, airfield management members use a 12-gage shotgun to fire blanks called bird scare. If this doesn't work, lethal action is taken.

"We do everything we can first before killing the birds," Richardson said. "Sometimes they get used to the loud bangs, but a jet engine is much louder and we would hate for them to fly up when an aircraft is passing."

With such a small crew, the airfield management team keeps very busy, she said.

"We work very hard to keep the mission going," Richardson said.