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Soldiers from Texas and Maryland helping manage busy skies over Kuwait

By Capt. Stephen James | 29th Combat Aviation Brigade | November 03, 2017

CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait – The Soldiers from Company F, 2-149th General Support Aviation Battalion, 29th Combat Aviation Brigade, manage multiple airfields and provide the technical expertise to manage the crowded skies above Kuwait and Iraq.

Soldiers from F Co. out of Camp Buehring, Kuwait, conduct air traffic services at Udairi Landing Zone and have already performed 300 ground-controlled approaches.

In order to maximize safety in all conditions, the Soldiers at Udairi are trained on the precision approach radar, which requires air traffic controllers on the ground to use radar to triangulate an aircraft's position when guiding it to land, even in situations of poor visibility.

"If an aircraft were to hit bad weather, we can guide them in," said Sgt. Richard Bosquez, acting facility chief at Udairi Landing Zone.

This capability is unique, as the PAR at Udairi Airfield is the only recovery system of its kind for CENTCOM, said Warrant Officer 1 Elaine Santiago, F Co.'s air traffic/airspace manager.

In addition to the ATS provided by F Co. at Camp Buehring, 29th CAB Soldiers also act as airfield managers. Airfield managers are responsible for coordinating operations on the airfield to ensure a vast array of tasks are complete so the airfield runs as efficiently and safely as possible.

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Gino Spescia, the 29th CAB's command chief warrant officer, sees all different aspects of the job as he performs duties both as an airfield manager as part of the airfield management element cell and as the primary contracting officer representative at Udairi Landing Zone, the heliport at Camp Buehring.

"The airfield management element cell is responsible for the day-to-day operations at Udairi Landing Zone, which can be anything from fuel to repair requests to vehicle usage, so it is never boring and never the same," said Spescia.

F Co. Soldiers also contribute to a variety of operations at Patton Army Airfield, Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, where they provide air traffic control services, passenger and aircrew transportation, airfield inspections, grounding point certifications and a central communications point for airfield security, the fire department and the refueling office, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Barry Bertram, Patton Army Airfield manager.

Outside of Kuwait, a separate contingent of Soldiers from F Co. perform ATS services at a remote site where they also have responsibilities as the senior airfield authority and airfield management.

According to Capt. Brian Burgi, F Co. commander, his Soldiers have been responsible for the safe execution of over 5,500 individual aircraft movements, including 300 cargo air drops and over 4,000 movements across the theater since they arrived in April.

"The airfield manager from F Company was personally responsible for ensuring all construction activities, lighting installation and associated maintenance was performed in accordance with all Army, Air Force and Combine Federal Regulations," said Burgi.

Compounding the complexity of managing an airfield at this site is the fact that the ATS Company was still required to run full-time control tower operations in which they safely manage the skies above them.

The airfield manager was responsible for coordinating with rescue and construction teams from the U.S. Air Force working on the airfield while simultaneously de-conflicting aircraft, said Burgi.

The 29th CAB is an Army National Guard brigade comprising Texas and Maryland Army National Guard Soldiers that provides aviation assets, operational and logistical support for operations across the region.

F Co. Soldiers will provide ATS and airfield management across their area of operation for the remainder of the year.