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Patrick SFB airfield management team enables DOD mission

Tech. Sgt. Marlena Bledsoe, 45th LRS noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield management training, removes a piece of debris on the Flightline during an inspection of the airfield, on Oct. 12, 2021. Removing Foreign Object Debris is a vital part of securing the safety of the runway. Photo altered for security purposes (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

Tech. Sgt. Marlena Bledsoe, 45th LRS noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield management training, removes a piece of debris on the Flightline during an inspection of the airfield, on Oct. 12, 2021. Removing Foreign Object Debris is a vital part of securing the safety of the runway. Photo altered for security purposes (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

Tech. Sgt. Marlena Bledsoe, 45th LRS noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield management training, Radios into the Air Traffic Control Tower on Oct. 12, 2021 at Patrick Space Force Base. With traffic on the flightline, airfield management stays in contact with the tower to maintain safety. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

Tech. Sgt. Marlena Bledsoe, 45th LRS noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield management training, Radios into the Air Traffic Control Tower on Oct. 12, 2021 at Patrick Space Force Base. With traffic on the flightline, airfield management stays in contact with the tower to maintain safety. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

Airman 1st Class William Kozlowsky, 45th LRS Shift Lead, conducts a Bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard check on the Flightline at Patrick Space Force Base, Fla. Aug. 23, 2021. BASH checks are essential to the safety of the Flightline to prevent damage to any landing and departing aircrafts. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

Airman 1st Class William Kozlowsky, 45th LRS Shift Lead, conducts a Bird/wildlife Aircraft Strike Hazard check on the Flightline at Patrick Space Force Base, Fla. Aug. 23, 2021. BASH checks are essential to the safety of the Flightline to prevent damage to any landing and departing aircrafts. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

Airman 1st Class Hannah Medina, 45th LRS Operations Coordinator, conducts a Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard check on August 23, 2021, at Patrick Space Force Base, Fla. BASH checks are important to secure the safety of the flightline and prevent damage to aircraft. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

Airman 1st Class Hannah Medina, 45th LRS Operations Coordinator, conducts a Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard check on August 23, 2021, at Patrick Space Force Base, Fla. BASH checks are important to secure the safety of the flightline and prevent damage to aircraft. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

Airman 1st Class William Kozlowsky, 45th LRS Shift Lead, Displays a piece of Foreign Object Debris on August 23, 2021, at Patrick Space Force Base, Fla. FOD are objects that can damage aircrafts on the runway. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

Airman 1st Class William Kozlowsky, 45th LRS Shift Lead, Displays a piece of Foreign Object Debris on August 23, 2021, at Patrick Space Force Base, Fla. FOD are objects that can damage aircrafts on the runway. (U.S. Space Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Samuel Becker)

PATRICK SPACE FORCE BASE, Fla. --

An active airfield requires a team of professionals to do much more than track aircraft arrivals and departures. 

 

The 45th Logistics Readiness Squadron airfield management team at Patrick SFB ensures the integrity of the base’s airfield, which supports the Department of Defense, multiple government agencies and the space launch mission.

 

“The airfield is at times the Air Force’s greatest weapon,” said U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class William Kozlowski, 45th LRS airfield management shift leader. “There has to be a team to manage and maintain that weapon so it can continue to ensure air superiority.”

 

The team inspects the airfield every two hours and performs a complete inspection daily to identify potential hazards such as Foreign Object Debris (FOD), Bird Aircraft Strike Hazards (BASH), or cracks in the pavement that could damage aircraft. 

 

“If the pavement on the airfield is not maintained properly, an aircraft could sink into the pavement upon landing,” said U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Precious Ann Smith, 45th LRS deputy airfield manager.

 

To prevent such a drastic event, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Marlena Bledsoe, 45th LRS noncommissioned officer in charge of airfield management training, said her team conducts assessments of the airfield 12 times a day.

 

“Cracks on the airfield can produce any kind of FOD or degradation of airfield pavement,” she said. “We make sure that FOD is not in the crack and remove it. We also annotate where that crack is so we can track it and put it in for repair.”

 

Patrick’s airfield management team also works to prevent bird strikes. To do this, the team uses their vehicles to patrol the airfield, as well as BASH cannons. 

 

“The BASH cannons are solar-powered and use Bio-acoustics to simulate threatening sounds such as explosions and predator calls,” Smith said. “Using these cannons keeps the runway clear of wildlife which helps prevent accidents.”

 

As a last resort, Smith said, the team will use depredation, excluding birds on the protected list. 

 

“If an Aircraft declares a bird strike, the runway is immediately suspended,” Kozlowski said. “When we find the pieces of the deceased animal we clear it off the runway ensuring we check the runway multiple times.”

 

By keeping the runway clear of all debris, the airfield management team can ensure the safety of any aircraft and can support any mission coming their way. 

 

Throughout 2021, the airfield management team has supported several missions including training exercises with Air Force Reserve Command’s 920th Rescue Wing and the U.S. Army. They have also supported 25 space launches, including the Falcon 9 Crew-3 launch Nov. 10.