OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
Airmen from the 51st Civil Engineer Squadron took to the skies to accomplish their quarterly Rapid Airfield Damage Assessment System training and maintain their Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems operator proficiency.
Their training is part of the Air Force Civil Engineer Centers “RADAS” program, which allows CE Airmen to quickly assess airfields after a damaging event while reducing their exposure to hazards.
“This is an expedient method to help the base recover much faster after an attack and minimize the risk to Airmen,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Holmes, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron small unmanned aerial systems program manager. “This whole program is designed to make us more effective and efficient at getting our job done.”
The SUAS operators volunteer to participate in the program. Their primary CE jobs are not piloting small unmanned aerial systems. Airmen come together from various career fields to learn a new skill designed to streamline some of their job specific duties.
“I’m a structures troop and I’m doing this as a way to aid in roof inspections” said Tech. Sgt. Russell Metts, 51st Civil Engineer Squadron structural supervisor. “The RADAS program is the primary focus, but roof inspections will be my secondary priority to make them quicker and safer for our structures Airmen.”
Airmen from other specialized career fields also participate in the training because it provides a unique perspective on the airfield and installation that helps them complete their missions too.
“The purpose of today is so that all of our SUAS operators can stay current, but also to work with our EOD counterparts to make assessing damages after an attack much faster,” said Holmes. “We have operators that control the aircraft and cameras, while EOD technicians are right next to us monitoring the live feed looking for any unexploded ordnance”.
The operators face different challenges from their day-to-day jobs. They have to learn airfield operations, communication procedures, runway and taxiway procedures, and general air space specific rules. All of this while piloting an unmanned aerial system.
“It’s interesting because as a CE Airman, the last thing you’re thinking about is communicating with the tower asking them to clear the airspace so we can fly,” said Holmes. “It’s a challenging new dynamic for us to deal with, because we now have to monitor aircraft for each other, communicate with the tower, quickly assess your mission time, and monitor the airspace.”
Through this regimented training, the Airmen operating these aircraft enjoy the uniquely rewarding perspective gained from it.
“Being a SUAS operator is cool because it’s a different challenge that you traditionally don’t get within civil engineering,” Said Holmes, “You are trying to do the same civil engineer mission, but in the air”.